(Town win 3-2 on penalties)

Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory – Bill Russell


Last week when this match was scheduled to be played, the weather was absolutely awful, but at 2pm on Sunday, 5th of November…the skies were blue, it was nice and warm – almost perfect playing conditions apart from the waterlogged playing surface.

In an almost ironic twist of events, the lead up to the game this week was pretty much as good as the weather gets in November [in fact probably better than normal thanks to climate change], but as kick-off approached the blue skies disappeared, the clouds closed in, and it began to rain.

Storm Debi was on her way, and although not terrible conditions to play in, it wasn’t the best for the players, the management teams, and the spectators watching.

Under an ominous and leaden sky, the referee got the League Cup game underway at 2.01 pm, following an impeccably observed minute’s silence for Remembrance Sunday.

As we knew very little about our opponents, apart from the tremendous form they showed last season to finish runners up to Farsley Celtic and gain automatic promotion from Division Three, we expected this game to be another challenging cup tie.

So it proved.

It was Town that settled into the tie the quicker of the two teams, enjoying home advantage and getting their pass and move game going quickly. Burley defended well and fought to gain possession where they could and attack with pace.

However, it only took a couple of minutes for Boro’ to make the breakthrough and settle any nerves they may have had.

A move down Town’s right saw Eva Jenkins and Lydia Corner combine to get the ball through to Holly Mitchell. Holly stepped one way, then dropped her shoulder and turned the other, wrong-footing the defender before striking the ball so cleanly – giving the visiting stopper no chance, 1-0.

Over the next few minutes, the visitors seemed a little rattled and Town pushed-on to get a second.

It came from a move down the right once more, starting with a throw-in. A few neat passes later, the ball found Grace Adams who controlled it with her first touch, looked up and entered a state that is similar to bullet time in The Matrix. [It is important to note that there may be a slight exaggeration in the last sentence, but Grace always has a calmness in her play that the writer believes is similar to bullet time!]

Grace accelerated around the left side of the defender and hit the bottom right of the net with her precision strike, again the keeper had no chance of saving it, 2-0.

The whistle went, the first half was over with Town leading by two goals, and seemingly in total control of this League Cup tie. Boro’ had had chances to score more, and the visitors hadn’t really had a clear-cut chance at that point.

But as we all know, probably one of the most dangerous scores is 2-0 – the next goal would be crucial, and it was clear that there were more goals in this game.

The second half kicked off, and both teams were up for the fight. There were a number of robust challenges from both sets of players, but let’s make this very clear - there were no dirty challenges, no dangerous play, and the tackles made were excellently timed.

It was just a fiercely contested tie where no quarter was given.

Knaresborough created a few half chances to increase their lead in the first 15 minutes of the second period, but a combination of offsides, superb saves by the Burley keeper, and great defending meant that Town couldn’t get that crucial third goal.

If the first 45 minutes were Knaresborough Town’s…then the second 45 were proving to be Burley Trojans’. The visitors were pushing Knaresborough back, and in one passage of play, managed to create a number of half chances, and a series of six corners from which they scored their opening goal of the game.

A well taken corner saw the ball whipped into the front post where the Burley striker got a touch to slip the ball past Ella Ritchie and into the Knaresborough Town goal to get the visitors back in the cup tie, 2-1.

Knaresborough strived to get up the pitch, but this was now a proper end-to-end cup tie. If I’m being totally honest, a large part of the play was in the Boro’ half.

Burley’s second goal came from a free kick, awarded for an accidental handball outside the penalty box - the ball bounced up sharply and caught the underside of the Town defender’s arm. Totally accidental - but a freekick nevertheless.

The referee counted 10 yards, the Town wall formed in front of the Burley Trojans’ striker, and we waited for the whistle to be blown.

The direct free kick was struck reasonably hard, bouncing just in front of Ella in goal. Whereas the ball to win the free kick had risen sharply, this particular bounce went lower than expected, under the advancing Town keeper, and into the net to get Burley’s second of the game and the equaliser, 2-2.

On the balance of the second-half play, the score was probably a fair one.

A couple of changes by Mike Bligh and Austen Taylor, saw Cass Lane take up a position on Town’s right, and she immediately had an impact. Using pace to get past the Burley Trojans’ left-back, Cass managed to get a number of crosses and shots in on goal in the closing minutes.

Unfortunately, she was unable to find the back of the net and the referee blew his whistle to end the game, 2-2.

We now had the lottery of penalties.

Burley’s first penalty was missed, 0-0.

Town took their first penalty with Rachel Carmichael stepping up and converting it, advantage Town, 1-0.

Burley Trojans’ second penalty was tipped over the bar by Ella, 1-0.

Beth Padget stepped up and took Town’s second, but it was saved by the keeper, 1-0.

Burley’s third from the spot was converted emphatically to make it 1-1.

Polly Asquith-Brown stepped up and assuredly put the ball past the Trojans’ keeper to put Boro’ back in front, 2-1.

Then a decisive moment as Burley missed their fourth penalty, putting the ball over the bar, 2-1.

Grace Adams stepped up to perhaps seal the victory for Boro’…the writer would have put his house on Grace scoring…however, the ball went just wide, and the score remained, 2-1.

The final round of penalties and what amounted to sudden death – Burley needed to score to stay in the cup. Their player took a short run up and nonchalantly fired the ball into the back of the net, 2-2.

It was tense around Manse Lane; you could have cut the air with a knife.

Boro’s last of the regulation five…and who else, but Cass Lane strode forward with the ball, looking calm and confident. She placed it on the spot, took a few steps back, looking at the referee and waiting for him to get into position and blow his whistle.

The Knaresborough Town squad were all standing in a line watching, arms around each other…waiting…the shrill of the whistle pierced the silence and Cass started her run, wrapping her foot around the back of the ball and put it high…into the corner of the net!

The squad ran forward, and enveloped Cass, Town had won the penalty shootout 3-2 to progress to the next round of the League Cup. Yes, this was by the narrowest of margins, but it was clear what this meant to the players.

As a newly formed team, with the briefest of histories, every game we play is a learning process and literally we’re charting new territory when playing different teams. We already know that life in Division Two is different from our first season in existence, and Town are constantly adapting the way they play.

We enjoyed the competitive nature of this game, against what we already knew to be an excellent opponent – their form last year in the league above us was simply outstanding. The cup ties we play are considered to be ‘free hits’, in that, we can try out new ways of playing, tactics, formations, and player combinations.

But deep down, we have to admit - it’s always nice to win a cup tie.

A word about our opponents, Burley Trojans; their league form this season, appears to be a little hit and miss, but as the saying goes…form is temporary and class is permanent. They are an excellent team and posed new questions that we sometimes had answers for, and other times struggled with.

They find themselves in the bottom half of our division [Division Two], but we don’t expect that is where they will finish. We believe that the two league games will be every bit as competitive, and as fiercely contested as this cup tie, and we really look forward to playing them again.

Well played Burley, as we said above, we won by the narrows of margins, and it could quite easily have been you going through rather than ourselves.

Next week we are back in action for our first County Cup game of the 2023-24 season – this time away against a team that we competed against last season for promotion out of Division Four – Field AFC Ladies.

I think that’s going to be another cracking cup tie!


Two final things...

Firstly; Josh - we all saw you breakdancing on the avoid landing in the mud! Shame Veo glitched!

Second; It was Olivia Delaney's last game for us (for a while), good luck on your travels! You have been superb on the field and an integral part of the Town family. We'll be here when you want to come back! All the best Liv!


Goals: Holly Mitchell 1; Grace Adams 1.

Player of the Match: Emily Crispin; Goal of the Game: Holly Mitchell.

Referee: Anthony Edwards