AFC Unity underdogs lose to battling Brampton Rovers

The Sheffield College - Hillborough Campus






AFC Unity’s whirlwind first ever season continued in a home struggle against Brampton Rovers.

After beating them 3-4 at Brampton, the Rovers had their revenge at Hillsborough College, going into half-time ahead by just one goal, before snatching a second in the 70th minute.

“I thought we played much better in the second half,” said manager Jay Baker. “But then against the run of play, Brampton put the ball in the net again, and that’s what it’s all about, so credit to them.”

Coach Olivia Murray agreed: “It’s disappointing because we were the better team and played the better football, but unfortunately we couldn’t find the back of the net.”

“Our football is fluid, and the goals will come with time,” said vice-captain Rosie Oates.

This sentiment was reinforced by captain Jane Watkinson: “It was a frustrating game, but we’ve got lots to take from it, with some really good football played.”

Defensive veteran Sarah Richards shared the feeling: “We just didn’t seem to get into our groove, which was really frustrating.”

“It was very frustrating,” admitted Murray, “but that just shows how much everyone wants to win.”

After last week’s vow to add fire-power, Baker admitted what he felt are his own challenges as a manager.

“You’ll often play certain personalities in specific positions for a particular kind of dynamic within the team,” he said. “That hasn’t afforded me the ability to create more chances up front, but now it’s definitely time to be bold, and we have the kind of players who enjoy being challenged and taken out of their comfort zone – because they’re team players, and the struggle against the odds goes on.”

The positivity in the AFC Unity camp remains despite the disappointing result.

“No game is a loss because we learn and improve and bond as a team every time we play,” added Oates. “We know as a team we can out-pass, out-pace and out-play most teams in the league, and sometimes we let that get the better of us, and that’s what we did today – but we had fun.”

“We’re a strong side with a great team spirit, and one of the things we do best is taking positives out of all experiences,” added Watkinson.

“This is a fantastic team to work with, and a wonderful bunch of ladies,” said Murray. “It was just one of those days. Onwards and upwards!”

Valiant AFC Unity eliminated from County Cup















AFC Unity put on an incredible performance against a side from three leagues above them, losing to Dearne & District 0-7 at home in the FA County Cup.

“I didn’t think it was possible to feel so positive after such a defeat,” AFC Unity manager Jay Baker admitted. “But I was overjoyed with the way our players performed, against a classy side from the lofty heights of the North East Regional leagues; they stuck to the game plan, played some great football, kept battling, and always believed.”

With that passion and “never give up” attitude, the “red stars” of AFC Unity gave an inspirational performance.

“I’m really proud of how well every single one of my team mates played today,” said captain Jane Watkinson. “There was so much energy, skill, and tenacity, producing some quality football against a very developed and skilful team from three divisions above us.”

“High levels of effort and team morale was shown by both teams,” said coach Jonny Hodgson. “We put up a tremendous battle, and deserved to get more from the match.”

He wasn’t alone in feeling the result was harsh for the amount of effort put in.

Fellow coach Olivia Murray said: “The scoreline definitely didn’t reflect the performance. It was outstanding team play today by everybody, and it was a fantastic game all round; absolute credit to everyone as the team gets better every week.”

“The result certainly didn’t reflect how well we played,” agreed Watkinson. “We have everything to hold our heads up about and take into next Sunday’s league match.”

Baker again agreed to take some responsibility for team weaknesses.

“I’ve been playing certain formations lately, and it’s taken away some opportunities to finish, so I’m going to address that, and make sure we have some more fire-power up front,” he said. “But the style of play and the spirit shown is reason for contentment – again, beyond ability, we run on the power of belief.”

“Unity is definitely shown within this team,” added Hodgson.

Incredible unbeaten run finally ends at Rotherham










AFC Unity’s unbelievable underdog run of five games undefeated finally came to an end on Remembrance Sunday against Rotherham United’s development side, who won 3-0.

“In a weird way, it’s almost a relief,” said AFC Unity manager Jay Baker. “For a team nobody expected to win a single game, there came a lot of pressure, the longer the run continued – I’m glad we’ve now got that loss out of the way, in a way.”

Rotherham played some excellent passing football, but for AFC Unity, the final third became bereft of productivity.

“The pitch seemed smaller to what we’re used to so we found ourselves suddenly running out of track,” said Baker. “But our opponents played really well, and I again experimented, and I have to take much of the responsibility for the result.”

“We showed absolute determination throughout a tough and gruelling match, and were unfortunate to lose our epic unbeaten run,” admitted coach Jonny Hodgson. “It was top work, but credit to Rotherham.”

He wasn’t the only one quick to praise AFC Unity’s opponents.

“We were very creative on the ball and made a lot of opportunities, but lost out to some fantastic finishing from Rotherham,” said captain Jane Watkinson.

“I’m gutted we didn’t get the result, but Rotherham had some quality finishing,” agreed coach Olivia Murray. “It was a great match to watch from the sidelines, with some excellent goalkeeping from both of our team’s ‘keepers today,” she added, referring to AFC Unity goalkeepers Chessy Hollingdale and debutant Lauren Williams.

The club’s personnel are content with only their second loss of the season so far, from seven games.

“You win some, you lose some, but it was a great display of teamwork again, with lots of positives to take away,” said Murray. “We should keep the faith.”

Watkinson agreed: “Despite the result, I think we have a lot of positives to take from the game as a team,” she said. “It’s definitely onwards and upwards for us, having already achieved so much this season against the odds.”

“We’ve gone from being a brand-new club with a unique ethos aiming to avoid the bottom of the table, to getting right up there in the mix of it at the top,” added Baker. “We’re all about believing in something better, and we ourselves are only going to get better.”

Photo credit: Rotherham United Ladies Development


The run continues: five games unbeaten!












The AFC Unity underdogs extended their incredible unbeaten run to five games in a row, with a nail-biting 1-1 draw at home to second-place Rotherham United’s development team.

The “red stars” conceded first from a goalmouth scramble after a corner kick, but – as is often the case – responded twenty minutes later to grab an equaliser and hold on for the draw.

“I was already telling the players at half time, but was able to reiterate it again at full time: that was the best we have played all season,” said manager Jay Baker.

“Everyone performed their best,” agreed coach Jonny Hodgson. “They were unwilling to let each other down.”

Baker credits the coaching of both Jonny Hodgson and Olivia Murray for much of the excellence of execution in AFC Unity play.

“Everything is starting to click; the players are gelling, the training is showing, and we’re finding our shape and fulfilling our potential,” said Baker. “Credit must go to the coaches I have to help implement it all.”

“It was an excellent match and both teams put in a big shift,” said Hodgson. “We were unlucky not to win, but Rotherham United had an outstanding defender.”

“The team played brilliantly, with some quality football,” added Murray. “It’s so pleasing to see every week just how much we keep improving and building together.”

Apparently, rotation of substitutes would have been more effective, had it not been for a comedic moment in which the manager’s stopwatch malfunctioned.

“It’s true, my stopwatch messed up at half time, and what with a few injuries again, I found myself making decisions at times that I felt were more rash than usual,” admitted Baker.

“But with the substitutes who don’t play much sometimes, what really shows is their character: they cheer on their teammates, then go back and train with them, bide their time, and stay hungry to play – which is exactly what you want as a manager.”

The “red stars” play United again next week, this time at Rotherham.

AFC Unity’s goal was scored by Lucy Strutt.