An away game today in the sunshine was just the ticket for Notts County Ladies after last week’s rain soaked win at home. The sun shone on the passing game of County and defeated a kick and run Arnold 1 -0. In fairness this should have been maybe 5 – 0 but a missed penalty and narrow misses kept the game tense as Arnold could have taken chances to get them level. County were in command very quickly this week and despite some key players missing the ball winning by Elle Croucher and Lauren Betteridge in the midfield was one of the key factors of the day. A quick break away by Arnold saw Bec Collingwood in action early as she came out strongly to deny a one on one. This was something that Collingwood had to do on more than one occasion today and always came out the winner. Starting the game this week was the original back four of Sophie Beldham who worked hard to get control with good touches and passes alongside her defensive partners of Ellie Marriott, Abbie Gale and Jade Beniston.  Charley Maclaren put herself about again up front and Katrina Bloomer was sharp with her touch and passing and even turned to see a shot narrowly miss. Eleanor Brooks had a half volley that went just over the bar and Ashleigh Harris commanded the left wing with pressure and speed. Following pressure from Beldham and Harris a quick throw in caught the Arnold defence on the back foot but the hand they used to clear the ball resulted in a County penalty. All credit for Beniston to be brave and strong to step up to take the kick but unfortunately drag it just wide. The first half seemed to fade out after the penalty as despite lots of chances from both team the score line did not change. County had to rely for a spell on Marriott’s timing at the back and the quick thinking of Gale. After the first half the team took the game to Arnold with passing moves and Lauren Wilson was on in the front line with Bloomer and played some good balls and worked tirelessly to get on the end of many. The more possession started to get results as the defence organised themselves and kept Arnold quiet with better control and passing. This determination led Beldham to get player of the match despite getting some heavy kicks and pushes, she never gave up. The midfield pair of Croucher and Betteridge were like a firewall and just piled on the pressure and from this the ball got forward to Bloomer who played a one two with Harris who sent in a great cross. The hardworking McLaren got in front of her marker to get a shot off that was blocked but she was fastest to react and at the second attempt scored under the advancing keeper. Minutes later Beniston played a neat ball to Brooks who fired at goal from 30 yards and forced the keeper to literally grapple the ball clear. Arnold never created any further chances and County settled them selves to see out the game for a well deserved victory.

Notts County Ladies U16’s returned to winning ways today at home with a 4 -1 win against Wollaton Green. All credit to Wollaton who never gave up but could not stop a performance of dominance and possession through good passing by the home side. County have been on a lean spell after losing the last home game and drawing away last week but this was a turnaround with guts and determination in the cold and rain. Early exchanges were in County’s favour and they passed with more confidence today and none more so than Kirsty Peat and Lauren Betteridge in midfield who were supplying the strikers Sammy Barlow and Katrina Bloomer quickly and smartly to set up some early chances. County had to shuffle the back line today due to injury to the captain Elli Marriott, so Sophie Beldham slotted in well at the centre of defence with Jade Beniston, and Abbie Gale ever assured at right back with, for the second week running, the magnificent Elle Croucher at left back. Ashleigh Harris made a menace of the Wollaton line with her great runs down the left and Charley Maclaren did the same on the right this week as Eleanor Brooks had to be a substitute due to a knee injury. The first real effort on goal was to Wollaton who broke through but quick goalkeeping by Bec Collingwood was enough to put off the attacker whose shot hit the post.10 mins in a Gale refused to give up pressure at the back and won a throw in. Quick thinking Peat picked it up and threw it down the line for Barlow to run onto, beat 2 players and score past the keeper. In the middle Betteridge relished in the mud with her challenges and made some good headers and then made a telling pass to Peat who fed Harris on the wing. Harris was lighting quick on a heavy pitch, beat her defender and put in great cross to Barlow to score her second. The second half was controlled well by all the team, Bloomer was sharp with her touch and lay off to Maclaren who was now up front and Lauren Wilson moved to left back with great effect until she unfortunately twisted her knee. This meant Brooks came on and immediately got in the action with some hard work and passes. Similar to the first goal the ball was worked well out of defence by Beldham and Beniston and yet again Harris stormed down the wing. She played in an inch perfect cross to Bloomer who fired in and just beat the keepers touch to make it 3 -0. The cold and wind was now a tough opponent and Wollaton got a just reward from a goal kick as they won the ball easily and ran into to score. County faced some pressure now but Croucher and Betteridge were strong on the ball, when Croucher fed Bloomer who sent it straight to the wing where Harris flew it quickly into the box and Brooks fired it home at the back post. Almost from the off County won possession and Brooks this time fired in a cross that was met by a header from player of the match Maclaren and went just wide. Scorers: Sammy Barlow 2, Katrina Bloomer 1, Eleanor Brooks. Player of the match – Charley Maclaren

Brave Notts County produced a gritty performance with some players unavailable before the game today but with neat passing, breathtaking runs and crunching tackles Notts County came from behind to get a good 1-1 draw that could have been a win. Notts County showed real character from the off as they battled and fought for every ball as Priory had early possession and created some good chances but couldn’t quite get the ball in the right position. The game saw some even exchanges from both sides and each defence worked hard to control attacks especially Notts County whose new defensive middle partnership of Jade Beniston and Ellie Marriott is working well. Elle Croucher was put in at left back today and turned in a masterful Player of the match performance with her calmness and determination at all times. Sammy Barlow and Katrina Bloomer linked up well with their midfield providers of Lauren Betteridge and Kirsty Peat.  Peat’s tough play earned her a bloody nose that required treatment but that did not stop her coming back on to great effect. Abbi Gale supported Eleanor Brooks all game and dominated the right side and similarly Croucher worked effectively with Ashleigh Harris down the left. On 25 mins just has County had settled the Priory pressure stopped the ball from being cleared and quick high shot was almost parried away by Bec Collingwood but not enough to see it just go over her and into the net. Collingwood did not let this deter her from great goalkeeping and clearances when needed in both halves. Charley Maclaren played her substitute role well in both halves with determination and effort that saw her twice have shots against the Priory goal. In fact if memory serves all the players had shots on goal today that were saved or just inches wide, even Mazza and Betteridge had a good attempt. There were chances in the second half for both sides which Notts County had the clear majority of but understandably goals were going to be hard to find and for Notts County’s sake Priory could not convert thanks to great goalkeeping and quick thinking defenders who played the ball out to Betteridge and Harris and Brooks and onto the strikers to hold on to it. One such clearance from Beniston fed Brooks who quickly turned to set up Barlow, whose shot from the edge of the box despite being off target found Peat at the back post to control and place in the bottom corner, 1-1. This was a day that was full of courage and skill, meaning the passing was so more accurate and precise, as Notts County have struggled at times this season but played like a team of old with so much commitment and determination. This needs taking forward to future games with players standing tall and recognising how good they are.

Unlucky under 16s went down 1-3 at home to Lincoln Ladies. County played a good passing game which normally would bring along a victory but not today. Lincoln took the lead and County replied with a well taken goal from striker Sammy Barlow. The second period saw County battling hard but two good movements from the visitors and the ability to take their chances sealed their victory. County couldn't quite find that telling pass to open up their opposition. Player of the match was awarded to Sammy Barlow.

Notts County Ladies U16’s started their cup campaign today and it was great step through the round as they beat their local rivals Rolls Royce 3-1. Not a game to be missed as the local derby drew the crowds out to see a pulsating game that was not for the faint hearted but for the determined and committed. Those two attributes were found within every player of County’s squad. There were no controversial moments this time and parental behaviour was to be applauded. Indeed County’s own Mr Croucher was an inspiration to the team and management to day so this report is dedicated to him !!!! The hardest task for the manager was to choose the player of the match that could have gone to any player from Bec Collingwood in goal to Danielle Brown or Charley Maclaren who came on as substitutes and played fantastically. Perhaps a flavour of County’s game was the way they pass effectively, catch the ball effectively or finish clinically enough. One key asset was winning the ball, and none more so today than Jade Beniston and Elle Croucher in the midfield. This early pressure was sufficient to provide Katrina Bloomer and Kirsty Peat with early chances and it was obvious a goal was going to come. It was nearly on cue as Eleanor Brooks broke down the right and fired in a first time shot that hit the bar and just went over. Rolls managed to pile on a little pressure but in fairness they never got a shot in thanks to great defending by Ellie Marriott, Abbie Gale, Lauren Wilson and Lauren Betteridge. Their first significant clearance got the ball to the half-way line where a quick Bloomer turned superbly to lay the ball into Brooks path on the wing. Brooks unleashed a special that was well saved by the keeper but fell to an on running Peat who steered it over the line. Rolls thought they may have got their just desserts later on with some good effort but a close range shot was brilliantly saved by a well positioned Collingwood. From here on in we have to look at the positives from the game as County simply performed to the maximum. Marriott and Betteridge decided that if the end of time was nigh they were going to go out and show the crowd what a central defensive partnership should be.  Abbie Gale had the face of a determined defender who was up against Rolls toughest player but never yielded once and on the left Wilson took her game from strength to strength with concentration and skill. County’s decision making got better as shot after shot was taken but saved by a good Rolls keeper until Brooks launched in a throw that was taken well by Peat who turned and shot early to see it saved but fall to Croucher who fired it home. 2 -0 at the break was a strong position but against Rolls this is never enough. More pressure from both sides saw a more even half. County’s best chance came from Ashleigh Harris as she chased down a terrific pass from MaClaren and crashed her shot against the post. Harris in her first season with County is just a joy to have around with her commitment and endeavour down that left wing. The back line continued to work hard and throw themselves at everything and so it came as a complete surprise on 54 mins when communication error allowed the ball to pass through the box and Rolls scored. What happens know will determine the result, let you head drop and you lose or listen to your captain Marriott and get stuck in. Beniston committed herself to entire pitch, Betteridge concentrated on everything and Brown refused to be fazed and worked hard so nothing got past her. Peat was unlucky with a shot off the post and Collingwood timed her back passes and clearances to perfection. Collingwood has had some tough games earlier in the season but now defends her goal with confidence.  The Rolls keeper was still alert and quick to release the ball early for a Rolls attack but on at least 5 occasions player of the match Marriott read every single one and cleared superbly. On 70 mins a traditional Brooks throw into the danger area was cleared to Gale who cleverly played it back to Brooks who swung it in where Bloomer controlled, touched and fired it past the keeper. 3-1 and settled nerves but Rolls kept coming so Mr Croucher came up with a brainwave. Beniston slotted in at the back and Betteridge went into midfield. The rest is history as Rolls never got past the back line again or even the midfield thanks to Betteridge’s challenges. Final Score Rolls 1 – 3 Notts County. Scorers: Elle Croucher, Kirsty Peat, Katrina Bloomer, Player of the match – Captain marvel Ellie Marriott (awesome)

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