Sevenoaks welcomed Cambridge City to Hollybush Lane in front of a packed crowd on Saturday afternoon for the first 2019/20 league game and the start of the third season under the leadership of South African triple Olympian, Jen Wilson, as coach with goalkeeper Dulcie Davies newly appointed captain.
Sevenoaks secured a place in the new Investec Women’s Division One South following a top six finish last season in the East Conference so will face a number of new opponents in the coming season. Cambridge City however are familiar opposition and coached by former Great Britain international and multi-Olympian Helen Richardson-Walsh. Sevenoaks were pleased to welcome a number of debutantes into Saturday’s squad – Tilly Strand Ford, Tara Daly and Annie Wilson – and came into the game off the back of an intense preseason in which more than 24 different players were given opportunities to play in the club’s 1st XI.
The game started quickly and Sevenoaks attacked with intent from the first whistle with great connections across all lines and the team’s pace evident from the beginning. This pressure culminated in an early short corner which unfortunately was not converted and resulted in a quick counterattack from Cambridge City, who were able to score in the third minute. Sevenoaks however were not disheartened and remained patient as they built up the play all over the pitch.
This tenacity earned Sevenoaks a corner which Jen Wilson converted in the 11th minute. The new league structure means games are now played in four quarters, each of 17 and a half minutes, and Sevenoaks went into the first quarter break having enjoyed the majority of the possession.
Sevenoaks kept up the pressure in the second and third quarters, with excellent play across the midfield of Nicki Skrastin, Kate Reynolds and Sophie Crosley acting as important link players between the defence and attack. Cambridge went down to 10 players following a yellow card in the 45th minute and Sevenoaks stepped up the pressure to take advantage of having an extra player.
This continued attacking play culminated in a fantastic break and volley conversion by Hannah Pike but unfortunately earlier play was deemed dangerous and it was disallowed. Sevenoaks however kept up the pressure and were rewarded with a second goal, this time joint man of the match Nicki Skrastin converting in the 55th minute from a tight angle following a strong baseline run and cross from Sophie Maunder.
Sevenoaks kept their structure and continued threatening in the fourth quarter with further opportunities on goal and short corners whilst also resolutely defending, particularly by joint man of the match Tilly Strand-Ford, to ensure they took all three points on the season’s opening day. Sevenoaks travel to Isca & University of Exeter next Saturday at 12 noon.