After a superb indoor performance the AKS 1st XI were back in action outdoors as they faced Altrincham Grammar in Round 3 of the National Schools U18 Cup. It proved to be another exciting and closely fought game, with AKS coming out on top.
We started the game superbly, with Rebecca W using her pace to attack from the first whistle and win a corner in only the third minute. She duly converted with an unstoppable drag flick into the top corner to take us into the lead. This put Altrincham on the back foot and we continued to dominate with Mollie M , Grace W and Rebecca W putting the Altrincham defence under constant pressure with their driving runs. We deservedly went two up when Mollie M converted another corner in the 10th minute. With us in control, Altrincham slowly started to enjoy more possession and they switched play well to find gaps in our defence. They put us under some pressure to win several corners, but great corner defence maintained our two goal lead. Altrincham were growing in confidence and only great defending from Cally B, Sophie B and Freya B-S, and tackling at the back from Lily H thwarted their attacks. Altrincham however did get reward for their improved play when they scored in the 29th minute to make it 1-2. We continued to press well with Alex C and Molly M working hard up front to put the Altrincham defenders under pressure. We attacked at pace and Mollie M deservedly restored our two goal lead just before the break with a great strike at a corner to make it 3-1 at half time.
Altrincham started the second half on the front foot but good work from Farah D and Jade F on the left constantly regained possession. Having absorbed some pressure, we then nearly increased our lead. With great link up play between Grace W and Sally S on the right we won a corner but this was well defended by Altrincham. The score remained at 3-1. Altrincham then enjoyed a period of pressure in which they passed the ball well. With the game getting stretched and us allowing them more space in the circle, they scored to make it 2-3. Lifted by the goal Altrincham raised their game and put us under even more pressure bringing several good saves from Emily P in goal and only great defending at a corner by Farah D, maintained our slender lead. With their tails up and us giving the Altrincham forwards too much space in the circle, it was Altrincham who got the next goal in the 25th minute after a good passing move which saw them level the scores at 3-3 with ten minutes to go and put the tie in the balance.
Lifted by drawing level, Altrincham continued to pass the ball well, but AKS again worked hard behind the ball. We started to dominate down the right again with Mollie M, Grace W and Rebecca W leading from the front with their superb work rate; we came close to retaking the lead when a great strike from Rebecca W flew wide. A corner routine brought a good save from the Altrincham keeper. With time running out and penalties on the horizon, we showed great character and raised our game once again, with a great passage of play. Grace W drove at pace down the right to beat several defenders and when her perfect pass found Jade F free in the circle, she made no mistake in finding the back of the net to take us back into the lead with just 3 minutes on the clock, and we had one foot in the next round. Nerves were settled and the tie was sealed in the next minute when another superb pass from Rebecca W again found Jade F in the circle, and she showed great composure to roll her defender and pass to Sally S on the right post and she sealed the tie finding the net to make it 5-3. A goal from the final corner of the game from Farah D made it 6-3 so AKS progress into the next round of the National Schools Cup. The team played some great hockey, but the most pleasing aspect of the match was how after Altrincham had drawn level they raised their game to score three times in the last five minutes and seal the win and a place in Round 4 of the National Schools Competition. There were a number of good individual performances, but player of the match award was given to Emily who made several crucial saves at important times in the game.