It was the first game back for our development side who had been on an impressive run prior to the national lockdown. Before the game the teams were only separated with 3 points with Stoke being 3rd and Foxes just behind them in 4th. It wasn’t quite a Tuesday night at Stoke but it was a Sunday afternoon at a very wet and windy Loughborough.
Prior to the whistle both teams observed a minutes applause in memory of chairman Andy Newbold.
The game started quickly with Stoke striking in the 5th minute as the slot was just wide of Abbott’s reach. Stoke continued to press on in attack but they were denied by Spokes who made a critical tackle in the box to poke the ball away from the Stoke striker. Foxes grew into the game with Taylor’s quick feet creating opportunities in attack. Not deterred by the weather the home side played a great style of football making shooting from their own goal kicks as they worked the ball up the pitch.
Totty gifted Foxes a chance to make it equal halfway through the first period with a cross into the box but the Stoke keeper was alert and managed to punch it clear. Having hit their stride Foxes got multiple opportunities through on goal but were held back as the flag was up.
Singh pulled Loughborough equal in the 31st minute as she ran onto a cross from Johnson and slotted it into the corner. Inspired by Singh’s goal Bailey and P.Gunn linked up well together but Bailey’s shot was well blocked by the recovering Stoke defender. Totty had an effort herself forcing the keeper to scramble backwards to make the save. Foxes again were frustrated by the lino as her flag was up again after Gibson played a pin-point cross field goal to Johnson.
Just before the end of the first half Foxes created another opportunity. This time starting deep from Spokes who’s ball forward was received by P.Gunn. The resulting cross was just out of reach of Bailey and Johnson in the box meaning that the sides were equal at half time.
Stoke again started the quicker of the two sides in the second half forcing Abbott to make a save in the opening minutes and putting the ball over the bar not long after. They capitalise on these chances 10 minutes into the half putting away a loose ball and making it 1-2. Totty again tries from range and forces a strong save from the Stoke keeper. Only 4 minutes after Stoke scored Foxes reply as the corner is only cleared as far as Gibson who puts a cross back into the box which is poked home by Taylor to make it even. However Stoke were quick to respond, burying their next shot in the bottom corner to retake the lead. It looked like Stoke were going to add their 4th shortly after as they were through on goal but the referee had already blown for a freekick and brought the ball back.
Both teams were strong in transition throughout the game and Foxes nearly equalled the game as they countered from a Stoke corner. Gibson’s shot was smothered by the Stoke keeper. Foxes made their first substitutions of the game as P.Gunn and Johnson came off and were replaced by E.Gunn and Bennett. Stoke managed to put the ball in the back of the next after a goal mouth scramble taking them two goals clear. Taylor and Singh continued to play around the Stoke midfield and create chances for Foxes.
With ten minutes remaining Colledge and Bailey were replaced by MacDougall and Bijleveld. Bijleveld made an immediate impact breaking through the Stoke defence but the flag was raised. Abbott was called into action late in the day making a great save to stop Stoke getting their fifth of the game. With 1 minute left of normal time E.Gunn went very close with her shot brushing the post.
Bijleveld impressed again making a rapid recovery run to break up the Stoke attack. Totty was finally rewarded for her efforts in the 93rd minute as her shot smashed off the bar and in to the goal. But it wasn’t enough to recue a point for Foxes as the game finished 3-4.
Foxes played attractive football throughout despite the conditions and were dealt an unfortunate hand by the oppositions lino’s. Foxes remain in forth but with Wolves and Lincoln have the same points. They have an opportunity to finish 2020 with a win next week as they face Sporting Khalsa who currently sit in 10th.