I hadn’t seen Crick since November. This season supporting opposing teams had really dented our quality time together. Normally when I was trekking down to the M6, she was trekking up it.
So when Manchester City moved their FA cup clash from the Sunday to the Saturday, it became the perfect time to catch up. Plus it meant I could catch up with my Sky Blue family without being on opposite sides of the field.
However, catching up with the Heroes generally involves copious amounts of beer and that game was no exception. Having only eaten a cheese sandwich and a flapjack, this was going to get messy. Having had a pint to catch up with Crick before the game, the Hero’s descended as did the offer of further rounds. Though I am pretty sure they got mine wrong as I am sure I asked for half a bitter and got a pint.
3 pints later we actually get to the match. It was a slow start with the Watford defence keeping Manchester City at bay for all of the first half. However, Manchester City showed their class and the goals came in the second half for them to progress.
After the match the Heroes and I stay for one more as how often do I actually get to see them. This is where I learnt several important lessons –
One: I can not and should not try and keep pace with my football friends. For I am a wee 55 kilo weakling compared to the practiced drinkers of my dear city family. However pint for pint I tried to match them and by 7pm I was gone. Not like I had a 5 am start the next day or anything.
Two: Do not let Crick near my phone when I can’t control what she does. After sending a message to my best friend telling her she had been replaced and my ’mummy’ that I missed her. I had some apologising to do the next day.
Three: Most importantly, being hungover on a Megabus is grim. Pretending you’re not hungover to your mother grimmer. Trying to stop your head from spinning and your stomach from twisting whilst hurtling down the motorway. The grimmest!! Don’t be like me kids.
Somehow, I managed to get up at 5am and meet my mother and make my connection all with an axe splitting my head. A brief pit stop and a triple shot coffee and I was feeling more human.
Blackburn Rovers our opponents for this FA cup tie were two leagues below us but were taking it by storm. They had a couple of ex FAWSL players including the ex-Man City player Natasha Flint who had been part of their Continental Cup winning squad. But I was quietly confident that we could smash this one.
What I wasn’t confident on was the coach getting us into London on time. Thankfully the ground staff needed an extra 15 minutes to thaw the pitch so we made kick off by the skin of our teeth. It gets cold in the UK in February.
Once again we seemed to be taken by surprise by a more physical side. Blackburn was bigger in both statue and height compared to our girls. The first chance was ours with Ross running down the wing but was taken out by a bruising slide tackle from a Blackburn defender, the Blackburn team had come to play.
So the first golden moment was theirs. Blackburn winger slid past Erin Simon and found Flint in the box with a pinpoint cross, it was all too easy for Flint to tap in beyond the keeper.
0-1 to the Northern League side.
As our beloved Skipper Gilly Flaherty says that had to be an effing wake-up call. West Ham came alive after the goal and the lions share of possession was ours. We pushed them into playing tightly in their own third, not allowing the counter. Maybe we pushed them too tightly as we couldn’t quite manage to finish the shots.
Then just before half time our new Canadian superstar Adriana Leon breached the iron curtain and fired into the corner, bypassing the keepers reach.
Getting the goal before the half time whistle was the turning point. Keeping it at a level playing field meant we could play hard second half control the game rather than playing catch up.
It was mum who decided to be the masochist and have the Football Tea. I just stuck to my chips. Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on you. Fool me five times the shames back on me. You know what they say about a fool and their money.
This half we played like the premier league side we should be. We had figured out how they played, no longer intimidated by the physical presence Blackburn brought. I mean we have Kate Longhurst and Gilly in our squad, we are scared of no one. Well maybe Jill Scott but that’s because she really tall and controls her legs like a newborn giraffe. Sorry Jill 😉
The highlight of the half was the Blackburn coach debating a free kick we had been awarded. Frustrated at the decision she started to argue with the fourth official. The ref stopped the run of play and could heard clearly saying.
’She shoved her over its a free kick. You can’t argue that’ well that was that coach told, much to our coach Beardy’s glee.
25 minutes into the second half we got the break we deserved. Our little dynamo in the middle Brianna Visalli shot from distance, curling around the goalkeepers outstretched hand. Unstoppable shot in the top corner, thus giving us the lead.
2-1 to the Hammers.
Just before time, we put the game to bed. This time Visalli got the assist, Leon, with her second goal for her new club a low hard shot at close range.
3-1 to the hammers.
Not long after the full time whistle went and we to had progressed. Though we looked battered and brusied
On the way home, we were discussing who we wanted in the next round.
’Manchester City away would be good’
I glare at my mother, in horror at the suggestion
’They would not be good, I want a decent cup run’
’I was thinking of ease of getting there’
We settled that we wanted Sheffield or Huddersfield for the next round in an away leg for selfish reasons.
Well, we got half of our wish.
Next time its back down the M6 to take on Huddersfield in the next round. Where the goals come thick and fast and I am quicker than BBC sport.