Nerves were jangling for both my daughter and I for different reasons as we set off for Cobdown - she because she was in goal for Gravesham United U18s and me because the usual team manager , Kevin Baxter, was away celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary (he wouldn't have made it to his 26th had he not gone!) and I was therefore helping manage the team with another parent.
Our opposition were well known to us as they were Gravesham's other u18 team run by Richard Hancock. Both teams had had good seasons in the League, with Hancock’s team having won 8 straight games leading up to the final and our girls only suffering defeat to league winners Folkestone from mid September onwards.
The girls warmed up & there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.
As the game kicked off, Richard Hancock's team immediately were on the front foot pushing our girls back and taking advantage of the midfield spaces we were leaving.
After 10 minutes they broke down the left and Rachel Stevens sent an unstoppable drive high into the opposite corner.
Our girls tried to fight back, and had a couple of half chances, but 10 minutes later, it was 2-0 as Daisy Wickenden sent another great 25 yard effort into the back of the net.
Our girls were stunned and for a while it looked like Richard Hancock’s team were heading for victory. Spirits were raised however as our girls managed to pull a goal back shortly before half time as Ami Burnham expertly volleyed home her sister, Becky"s corner from around 10 yards.
HALF TIME Gravesham 2 Gravesham United 1
As the 2nd half began there was real belief that the game was now there to be won.
The girls passed the ball better and defensively were keeping the opposition at bay.
Hancock's team were now tiring and we were taking control with every player doing their bit for the team.
Megan Jeffery made it 2-2 after 55 minutes as her fierce shot from the right just eluded the despairing grasp of Stevie Marie-Reece.
We were now bossing the game although Hancock's team continued to carry an attacking threat with Kelsey Barham , Ellie Amodio and Sarah Dillon Leitch all doing their best to stretch our defence along with Wickenden and Stevens.
When they did get through, Emma Wyatt was inspired and was having undoubtedly her best and most confident game in goal for our girls and she made several good saves
The next goal was always going to be important and it came with around 12 minutes left, as Jeffery played a great through ball for Roisin Fuller to produce a lovely composed finish.
This did not kill off Hancock's team however as the game swung from end to end and it took another great diving save to keep us ahead. At the other end, Shannon Manning then almost made it 4-2 but her effort drifted just wide.
As the final whistle went after a great game of football, which reflected great credit on both teams, the Gravesham club and girls u18 football in general, we had won the trophy and the celebrations could begin!
A huge well done to both teams on reaching the final and on producing a great game to watch with excellent football played throughout.
FULL TIME Gravesham 2 Gravesham United 3
Commiserations to Rich Hancock and his team who gave it their all - you all contributed to a wonderful mornings spectacle but found our team in inspired form on the day.
Congratulations to our girls for their great fightback and a wonderful end to the season.