Harding: New Year, new adventures

A fairy-tail ending wasn’t meant to be…Tash Harding reflects on an exciting conclusion to the 2013 WSL season, and what 2014 will bring for Bristol Academy.

After already playing four games against top teams, playing Donny Belles didn’t seem all too difficult. We were all drained as players but the confidence and belief that we could win it was stronger than ever. We had just taken a a point away to Arsenal, and even then I had had a chance to win the game, if it wasn’t for that bloody left foot (which I now believe is only for standing on)! However, this kept the momentum going for the last game of five in 13 days.

Tash in action for Bristol Academy

Tash in action for Bristol Academy

That amazing come back…

On the way to the game, the bus was pretty quiet and I think everyone was just physically drained. It wasn’t a normal Bristol bus where every one is laughing and chatting etc, it was quite subdued to say the least.

The warm up was good and everyone seemed up for the game but there was still a sense of tiredness. The first half started in our favour with us having a few chances and their goalkeeper making a few great saves. But something wasn’t clicking for us, and as a team, we couldn’t seem to play the football that got us into the position we were in prior to the game.

Suddenly we found ourselves behind. We had just attacked and the keeper gathered the ball, put it on the floor to kick long. I just remember watching the ball go over my head and the midfield, get flicked on and Little was there to finish a basic route one tactic. But it was oh so effective because they scored another two within minutes. We all stopped and looked at the board and thought ‘are really 3-0 down in 35 minutes?!’ We were in shock.

In the dressing room at half time, it was silent. But there was no panic at all on anyone’s face. If anything, it was a few words from the manager and the silence. But a silence filled with determination. Walking out for the second half, we knew we needed an early goal, and we got it.

Then we had to wait a bit longer for the second, but that was the spark that fuelled the ruthlessness, the willingness to win and do whatever it takes for each other. When that fourth goal went in, we completely believed we can win this title. To come back from 3-0 down was an achievement many of us hadn’t done. And we did it the way we have all season – by playing cut throat attacking football.

Goal number four caps the comeback at Doncaster

Goal number four caps the comeback at Doncaster

After the game the changing room was quiet and no one could believe what just happened because it felt like that 45 minutes went in a flash. It was a great end to a gruelling schedule and everyone couldn’t wait to rest.

The decider…

With Arsenal deducted points, we knew it was between us and Liverpool for the title. Liverpool were the team to beat and we knew for us to win we had to play our best. We travelled up on the day, and everyone felt fresh even though there were internationals played a few days prior. We were quietly confident.

We knew if we went in 0-0 at half time it would work more in our favour, but we conceded a penalty. First blow to Liverpool. We were on the back foot for the majority of that half and credit to Liverpool they played like they were already proven champions.

Second half was much of the same but we created a few more chances. But we conceded another and by then we knew we were beaten. After the game there were tears and emotions were high, but looking back on it now not every Bristol Academy player gave their all in that game. If everyone worked at 100% I think it would have been a different story and a different blog. But it just wasn’t meant to be. Liverpool deserved to win the title.

New England boss Mark Sampson

New England boss Mark Sampson

The next step…

As everyone is aware, England has a new manager. I think this shows how hard everyone at Bristol worked and how well everyone did last season. I know a manager is an integral part of any team, but it was the girls that came back from 0-3 down to win 4-3, it was the girls that played amazing football and reached the FA Cup by beating Everton and Lincoln at Ashton Gate, it was the girls that dug in deep and went down fighting against Liverpool.

I am honoured to have worked with the manager, but even more proud of playing alongside those girls, going down to a title decider and earning CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FOOTBALL!

So am I happy with last season? On a scale of 1-10, I’d say 15!!

What next…? Watch this space ;)!

Tash

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