With draw, AFC Unity extend unbeaten run to four games

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AFC Unity held New Bohemians to a 3-3 draw at home to extend their undefeated run to four games.

Despite the red stars taking the lead – at 1-0, and again at 2-1 – the New Bohemians players responded, piled on the pressure and went 2-3 ahead in the 75th minute. However, AFC Unity fought back and grabbed an equaliser with three minutes to go.

Manager Jay Baker claimed these comebacks are becoming a signature trait of the underdog spirit that is both a blessing and a curse:

“It was no secret that almost everyone around the league didn’t even expect us to win a game all season, let alone win three in a row,” said Baker. “But we’ve battled back from behind in almost every single game we’ve had because of that underdog mentality, apart from when we beat New Bohemians at theirs – and that may have actually hurt us in the return fixture.”

Baker believes AFC Unity’s underdog culture was missing in this game as a result of their recent track record.

“Richard (Slattery, New Bohemians manager) has developed his team really well, and my coaches and I warned our players not to underestimate them, but I actually think the fact we weren’t considered underdogs for once threw them off a bit – and there were things I could have done differently – but ultimately, New Bohemians were really impressive and made it very difficult for us.”

Still, it was an achievement for AFC Unity to secure a draw and remain unbeaten in four consecutive games.

“We played some fantastic football and it was a great match to watch,” said coach Olivia Murray. “We dominated the first half and had plenty of opportunities – we have definitely grown as a team, everyone played really well and there was some great wing play.”

The impressive showing from the day’s “underdogs,” New Bohemians, was duly noted by all at AFC Unity.

“It was an excellent turn out from both teams,” added coach Jonny Hodgson. “It was some of the most exciting football played this season and our team played their hearts out; I’m proud of them all.”

Olivia Murray said: “We win as a team, we lose as a team, and we draw as a team. We were so unlucky not to win in the last minute – I felt we deserved it. If we keep the faith, we’ll be back to winning ways in no time.”

Jay Baker felt the result was healthy.

“We got a point, and it’s a good reality check,” he said. “We exceeded expectations recently, but must stay grounded. We’re back to being the bona fide underdogs next week (against second place Rotherham United Development), and we have to remain realistic, focus on fundamentals, and believe in the battle of it all – because nothing comes easy here.”

AFC Unity goals came from Lucy Strutt, Sophie Mills and Shanie Griffith.

AFC Unity win third game in a row

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AFC Unity’s steep learning curve showed with their 4-5 victory at Hemsworth – the place where they lost 7-0 in their first ever game there in a pre-season friendly this past summer.

Hemsworth took the lead each time, with AFC Unity playing catch-up: Hemsworth scored first, and the red stars equalised, before the blues again took the lead to make it 2-1, only for the first half to end 2-2.

In the second half, a ten minute holding period took place, with Unity looking likely, until Hemsworth again went ahead, making it 3-2, only for another quick response to break even yet again. Hemsworth would go in front one last time to make it 4-3.

“I never had any doubt,” said manager Jay Baker. “We have the belief and the passion to come back in games every time, and I knew if we could keep coming back, we’d eventually play all our cards and then get the win.”

Coaches Jonny Hodgson and Olivia Murray shared similar sentiments.

“The team showed complete belief in one another; they’re not willing to let each other down,” said Hodgson. “This is a team with a real passion.”

“The reason we won,” added Murray, “was due to the fact that everybody gave one hundred percent right up until the last minute, and played with the belief that we were going to win despite going behind.”

AFC Unity did indeed pull another back to make it 4-4, before the winning goal was scored in the 85th minute.

“Cor blimey,” enthused Hodgson, “with 40-yard strikes being scored, we have some serious class.”

“There was some absolutely quality finishing today,” agreed Murray. “It was a brilliant team effort.”

“Hemsworth showed us great hospitality and have an excellent set-up,” added Baker. “To go there and win 5-4 is a real achievement, and again another testament to the spirit in the team, the quality coaching, and the culture of the club as a whole.”

AFC Unity goals were provided by Nathalie Silver (2), Shanie Griffith, Lucy Strutt, and Lena Reitzle.

AFC Unity gain second win in a row to go third

AFC Unity again showed the spirit of the underdog after battling away at Brampton Rovers to gain a 3-4 victory.

The win turns around their goal difference and gives them six points from just three games, leaving them third in the Division Three table, just above next week’s opponents, Hemsworth South.

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“As a brand-new club and an incomplete squad, we were already the underdogs,” explained manager Jay Baker. “But after the first game, I think everyone wrote us off, and the beauty of that was that there was no pressure any more – and to be fair, I’d been the one putting the pressure on by hoping for promotion. But the leagues are a strange animal with so many newly-entered clubs, and you get a real mix in this feeling-out period – there are teams in Division Two we believe we can beat, whereas Division Three has a steep drop-off from the top team to the rest of us.”

“We have our eyes up there,” Baker added, “regardless of being the underdogs expected to finish at the bottom – I want us to aim high, even if we come up short.”

Brampton Rovers and AFC Unity seemed fairly matched, and went into half time drawing 2-2. “After a loss and a win already, I suppose I’d have been content with a draw,” said Baker. “But at half time, I took a gamble and changed things up a bit, and I think those changes paid off when we went 4-2 up.”

Brampton were able to get a goal back, making the dying minutes of the game a real nail-biter.

“Yes, our coaches on the side were joking about having heart attacks,” Baker laughed. “But our players were able to dig deep and dig out another victory – they’re incredible people.”

In the end, it remained 3-4, with AFC Unity goals coming from Jane Watkinson, Shanie Griffith, Sophie Mills, and Lucy Strutt.

AFC Unity win 7-2 in second league encounter

f41fc8d3e75a6c8ad18df313f9dcd31aAFC Unity immediately got back on track this week, winning 2-7 at the New Bohemians in their second Third Division fixture.

“It was back to playing football, like we enjoy doing,” said manager Jay Baker. “The whole ethos and atmosphere for the game was sportsmanlike; Richard (Slattery, New Bohemians manager) has a great outlook, and it has the effect on his team, who were welcoming, fair, sporting, and play some really nice football.”

However, Baker added, that’s also what AFC Unity are about.

“As in the pre-season, we play our best football when we’re against footballing sides,” he explained. “Last week’s experience, aside from the unsavoury aspects, was like going against Don Revie’s Leeds – what I like to call smash-mouth football – but that’s not our way. Jonny (Hodgson, AFC Unity’s coach) and I have encouraged the ethos of the club itself into the team, where fair play and passing football is important.”

AFC Unity’s “passing football” only increased tempo as the game progressed, leading 1-3 at half-time, and refusing to drop deep, with full-backs pushing up to further maintain momentum.

“I don’t like the cynicism of dropping deep and defending when you’re in the lead,” Baker said. “And what we did well when conceding the two goals was respond to each of them instantly with a goal of our own. Each and every one of our players put a good performance in, and we’re starting to gel and retain the discipline of the training sessions.”

However, Baker urges people not to rule out New Bohemians.

“They’re a fantastic club, really professional, and the women’s team is still playing with a small squad, to be fair – we had three substitutes and kept rolling, whereas they only had their eleven players on the day, and that takes it out of a team as well. As they develop and grow, that kind of football is going to scalp some sides – I just hope it’s not us!”

AFC Unity goals came from Lucy Strutt (3), Jane Watkinson (2), Nathalie Silver and Lena Reitzle.