AFC Unity comeback gives 5-2 win in gutsy performance

The Sheffield College - Hillborough Campus

AFC Unity uncannily beat Hemsworth South 5-2 for a second time at home this season in what was the last game at Hillsborough College for the 2014/15 season.

“No disrespect to Hemsworth, because they were really good and are a fantastic club with great players, but the first half was a bit of a mess for us due to our own distractions on the touchline, and it made my decision-making very difficult, before we then lost two players at half-time while we were trailing,” said AFC Unity manager Jay Baker. “Once the negativity was tackled, though, we re-set – and the fortitude, determination, and guts of every single player on the pitch in that second half was inspirational and absolutely incredible, in wind, rain, sleet and snow as well!”

AFC Unity banged in all five goals in the second half as they gritted their teeth and adjusted to a different team formation for the last 45 minutes.

“We’re called the underdogs, and all season we’ve prided ourselves on being able to fight back, because giving up isn’t in our ethos,” said Baker. “But I have never been so impressed by those players than in this game – they stuck together, stuck to the adjustment of positions, and never stopped believing they could win, in the face of adversity of all kinds, from stuff off the field, to the scoreline, to the weather, they showed their true character and I’ve never been so proud of them, each and every one.”

Injured defender Sarah Richards watched from the sidelines on crutches, but was given the win wished for in her absence.

Baker added: “We said we’d want to win for her, and we did. I want to thank everyone who came along to support us in such horrible weather, the coaches for their efforts, the captain, and all of our players who remain in the side, for showing true character as we approach the final stretch of the season on the road.”

AFC Unity goals came from Lucy Strutt (3) and Sophie Mills (2).

AFC Unity game abandoned after unfortunate injury

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AFC Unity’s game at Beighton was abandoned ten minutes in, due to an injury suffered by defender Sarah Richards, as they were winning 1-0 in a blistering start.

Lucy Strutt scored after five minutes with the “red stars” looking like a different side to the one that got beat by Beighton 8-1 just a week before.

“As mentioned a week before, the benefit of a defeat like that against an undefeated and seemingly unbeatable team is that you get to try something different, because you have absolutely nothing to lose,” said AFC Unity manager Jay Baker. “So I tried a different approach, and right from the off it looked like it was working, and then we scored, and we were on fire.”

However, just after the tenth minute, veteran defender Sarah Richards went down near the edge of her own penalty area when her studs stuck in the mud and she dislocated her knee. Told not to move her until the ambulance arrived, after a long wait, the referee called the game off.

“It was just bad luck,” Baker said. “It’s nobody’s fault. Clubs at this level try hard to do their best to handle the pressure to keep games on and the playing surfaces at this time of year aren’t great, but this is why there have been calls for more investment into the game at a local level, where there are limited resources and there’s only so much all the clubs can do.”

AFC Unity players and coaches stayed with their injured teammate for nearly an hour until an ambulance arrived, and Baker hopped in with her for the bumpy ride to the hospital.

“On the stretcher, in the ambulance, Sarah was still talking about the game, pointing out the fact that Beighton have only had three goals scored against them all season – one from us last week – and we took the lead in this game, and then disaster struck!” said Baker.

He added: “She was so thankful for everyone’s support. She’s a good person, not just a good player, and the most important thing is that she takes care of herself and gets better, because knowing her, she’d try and show up to training with her leg hanging off!”

Everyone at AFC Unity wishes Sarah Richards a speedy recovery.

The game will be rearranged and the fixture will be announced soon.

The Launch of the “Kick a Ball” Challenge

The “Kick a Ball” Challenge from AFC Unity aims to engage women who have had little or literally no experience in kicking a ball, let alone playing football. Under the tutelage of coaches Jonny Hodgson and Olivia Murray, AFC Unity first team players will step up to the challenge as ambassadors in order to help develop two opposing 5-a-side teams over three one-hour sessions, with a fourth session featuring a 30min game (two 15min halves) between the two sides! The winning team and their ambassador(s) will receive a prize! The major rule is: “Absolutely no registered football players allowed in your team!” B9qUCX2IUAAcaGR
Ambassadors should seek to develop players with little or no experience. Sessions will take place on:

*February 14th
*February 21st
*February 28th
*March 7th (The match!)

Each session, AFC Unity ambassadors will pick the brains of the coach on the day and oversee their own group of players to develop their skills and strategies. More experienced players can help less experienced players so that every participant benefits.

Ambassadors should ask themselves:

• “Do I have enough players to field a team on March 7 th ?”
• “How can I recruit more players to my team?”
• “In what areas do each of my players need to develop the most?”
• “How can I utilise the coach to develop my team of players in front of one 5-a-side goal?”
• “In the time I have, how can I put together a winning team?”
• “What strengths do my playes have that I can have my team play to?”
• “How can I apply my 11-a-side football knowledge to 5-a-side?”
• “If my players are likely to get tired, do I have a big enough squad to rotate on matchday?”
• “How can I build the confidence of my players in preparation for matchday?”

If ambassadors wish to distribute project leaflets to their locality in order to recruit their team, these can be provided upon request. Please advertise on your social media pages too.

If you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch!

AFC Unity underdogs lose 1-8 to undefeated Beighton

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AFC Unity lost to Beighton Magpies by a seven-goal margin for the second time this season.

“They haven’t lost a game this season; they smash almost everyone in this division,” shrugged AFC Unity manager Jay Baker. “It is what it is, and it’s important we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

“Credit to Beighton for playing great attacking football, creating so many chances and taking them – it definitely made this hard to defend against,” admitted coach Olivia Murray. “Nonetheless, we battled hard to the core and never stopped, and this showed when we got one back. We also played some quality passing football at times and showed how much we have developed and come on since our first meeting.”

“My primary focus, as mentioned before in recent weeks, is the welfare of my players, and the ethos of our club,” reiterated Baker. “The top spot has never been in doubt; it’s up to us other six to battle over the spoils, which is where it gets interesting. We went to kick the ball around a bit and stick to our principles, being disciplined with our heads held high, and it’d never be any different.”

Co-founder and captain Jane Watkinson agreed: “The team played with real passion, solidarity and respect, and we kept going and importantly had a smile on our faces, enjoying playing as a team,” she said. “Lots of positives from the game; everyone should be really proud of themselves.”

Recent signing Chloe Rodgers added: “Unity displayed the true meaning of team spirit; despite an unreflective score line the team battled together and played some brilliant passing football. I think with some good tactics, hard work and belief in our own strengths we can certainly give them a game at their place next week!”

“Games like these are useful as they give us an opportunity to try out different things,” said Baker. “I mean what have you got to lose?”

AFC Unity face the Magpies again, at Beighton, next week.

Lucy Strutt scored for AFC Unity.