Monday nights this time of the year tend to be 7-a-side half court pitches in the Adel summer league as a way of keeping up some off-season fitness and allowing everyone to catch up on the gossip over the last week.  The biggest talking point this week was the need to wrap up the game as quickly as possible and rush home to see the start of the new series of Love Island (although I think the potential spin-off of Love Ireland has more appeal….).

Last night was different however.  The club had been contacted by a touring team comprising of students from across the East Coast Universities of the United States of America.  Having heard about our exploits they were keen to include a game against Yorkshire’s finest and thanks to Gabby the fixture was arranged at GSAL on a pleasant summer’s evening.  The USA Universities side were ultra keen and on the pitch warming up before the first of Adel had arrived.  This was to be their last game of their tour with them having had games up in Scotland and the North of England already, which had sadly seen their number depleted due to injury and a couple of the coaches turning out to provide some experience and fresher legs.

With a full squad of 16 players at his disposal, coach Bally had his work cut out organising rotations at frequent intervals but the squad was a mix of first team regulars from last season together with a number of the 2s squad looking to step up a level next year, highlighting the depth of talent at the club.  The game began at a fast pace with Rosie having the first shot inside 10 seconds narrowly going wide of the far post and Adel dominated the early proceedings perhaps enjoying the advantage of having a team who knew each other better than the mix of Uni students who had only met as a team a week or so earlier.  Adel enjoyed some success down the right hand side of the pitch with Robyn and Jess driving to the byline and putting in some searching crosses that could not quite be converted.  In the middle of the park Sandra was her industrious self, maintaining strong possession and distribution and the width from Hannah and April allowed Adel to move the ball around the pitch looking for openings to exploit.

But the USA students gradually settled in to the game and began to take control of possession showing some good stick skills, plenty of energy and some strong ball carrying with an ability to take quick hits and create opportunities.  So it was perhaps something of a surprise when Adel took the lead from another cross from the right wing and Jenny Wright justifying her award as Ladies 1s player of the season was there to finish things off with a neat deflection across the keeper.  On the opposite flank, Gabby was using her pace to cause problems for the USA back line and Woody came off the bench to show her dribbling skills and create further chances that went begging. Whilst the USA had some possession and territory advantage in the latter stages, they were unable to breach the Adel back line and when they did Stella made some impressive saves and clearances to keep away the danger.

Half time and 1-0 to Adel was perhaps just about a fair reflection of the scoreline.

The second half saw the USA dominate from the start and this was best reflected in their penalty corner count which was well into double figures but with no end product.  This was due to some solid defending from Sophie, Abby, Sammy G and Holly after she had recovered from a nasty blow to the thumb in the first half.  Sophie and Hannah’s brave running out from the corners denied the USA from getting any real strikes from the top of the circle and when they did move the ball to the sides, Stella continued to make some impressive clearances with Sammy and Abby putting their bodies on the line to maintain the Adel clean sheet.  When Adel did get the ball away the pace of Harriet and Cesca allowed some breathing space and some chances for Woody to convert on her reverse side but the USA keeper was up to the task of keeping the ball out of the goal.

Adel’s defence showed some cool composure and excellent ball transferring to create chances down the wings but were unable to convert some corners of their own, an area to work on ahead of the new league season.  With the game entering the last 10 minutes and perhaps conscious of their corner routine not working, the USA left winger entered the circle and unleashed a strong strike that beat Stella at her near post.  Perhaps a deserved equaliser for their possession and chances missed and an honourable draw to take back to the USA….

But Adel were not willing to let down new skipper April in her first game with the armband and with 5 minutes to go another run down the right hand side of the pitch saw a mirror image of the first half goal when Jenny Wright converted once again to take the lead.  Despite some late corners and further pressure the Adel backline held out and it was something of a relief when Jim blew the final whistle to end the game.

Some encouraging signs for the season ahead, with some competition for places always healthy for the club and we look forward to the reverse fixture away in New York…. thanks to the opposition for being part of an enjoyable and entertaining game (no cards to either side) and special thanks to everyone for not injuring April ahead of her wedding day in a couple of weeks time!  Good luck to April and her husband to be from everyone at Adel and we await your return from honeymoon ready to lead the team into the new season!