YEOVIL Town Ladies came thorough their toughest test of the season to beat league leaders Forest Green Rovers at Somerton on Sunday afternoon in a hard fought and often physical encounter (writes Ali King).
It was always going to be a tough match against the early season pace setters, and the Glovers often found themselves under the cosh, but they kept their nerve to take the win, and duly fired themselves up to second place in the league, just a point behind new leaders Newquay.
Jemma Tewkesbury continued her good form of late to score both of Yeovil goals, grabbing them either side of a Kirsty Richardson strike for Rovers.
Tewkesbury had a good game, as did Rachel Simkin in the Glovers goal, who particularly in the second half kept the Glovers in the game with a string of excellent saves. It was a good battling display from the whole team though, and manager Steve Phelps had every reason to be happy.
"We didn't always play our best football today," he said after the match.
"But we battled well against a physical side, and took the points. It just goes to prove, that you may not always play well, but if you stay focused and do your job, you can still win games.
"This was a fine victory, I am really pleased."
The precedent for the game was set almost from the start, with Rovers making it tough for Yeovil with some hard physical play. The tackles were flying in all over the place, as were the Yeovil players, but the referee handled it just right, keeping things well under control.
Both teams were in determined mood, and were not giving each other a second on the ball, so the game was never going to be full of flowing football, but it was still good to watch, and exciting too as both sides vied for the advantage.
Rovers probably had the better of the opening fifteen minutes, but the Glovers kept it tight, and with Simkin in fine form between the sticks, they didn't really look like conceding.
Yeovil fought back and slowly took the upper hand, although they were finding it tough in midfield. Despite this, the ball was still getting out to the flanks where Jemma Tewkesbury and Kayleigh Nardiello were doing well against the Rovers defence.
On 16 minutes Tewkesbury made a fine run down the wing, and just as she started to cut into the box she was poleaxed by a defender. The resulting free-kick saw Kia Bowles play a good ball into the box. The 'keeper managed to clear her line, but the ball came out to Roe, who was unlucky to see her shot deflect just wide.
Rovers were always a threat, and a minute later one of their attackers took a powerful shot from distance, which produced a great diving save from Simkin. A few minutes later they hit just wide and then over the bar, and Yeovil were living on their wits. The Glovers came back, and on 24 minutes Tewkesbury grabbed the ball in midfield and powered her way into the centre to unleash a good shot from 20-yards, the 'keeper however, made a clean catch.
It was end to end stuff at times as both teams battled for the advantage in this vital game, but with Simkin in such fine form, and the rest of the defence looking generally solid, Yeovil were holding off any threat, and with the wingers flying and Roe in the centre seeing a lot of the ball, they always looked the more likely to make the breakthrough.
And when the opening goal arrived on 29 minutes it was the result of a well worked move. Pearson won the ball in the centre and sent a lovely pass to Tewkesbury, who beat her marker to go clear of the defence on a one on one with the 'keeper, eventually beating her from 12 yards with a well timed powerful shot that went in low under the 'keeper.
Rovers immediately fought back with some fine attacks, and on 34 minutes had a great chance to equalise when their number nine 'Kinga' played a decent shot from ten yards that brought a great diving save from Simkin.
Yeovil were still having he better of the game, and could have doubled their lead on half-time when Tewkesbury burst into the box for a good effort. The ball was cleared, but only as far as Roe, who saw her shot deflect out to Rachael Edwards who was unlucky to shoot inches wide.
Rovers came out for the second-half with the bit between teeth, immediately hitting the Glovers with force. A real battle was ensuing in the midfield, and the Gloucestershire side were winning it hands down. Yeovil couldn't seem to get any decent possession in this area, and with it, the opposition were looking dangerous.
The Glovers were still having their chances, and on 51 minutes Anusia Rourke played a good ball through to Tewkesbury who again found herself on a one on one with 'keeper, but the Rovers player just got to the ball first.
Rovers were still winning the midfield battle, and putting the Yeovil defence under some sustained pressure. Georgia Coles was having an excellent game, as was Claire Heydon, and with Simkin continuing her acrobatics in goal, Yeovil were just managing to keep the opposition at bay.
On 54 minutes Rovers fired over the bar with a great shot, and two minutes later Kirsty Richardson received the ball on the left, beat a couple of defenders and unleashed a shot that whistled through the Glovers rearguard and past the diving Simkin into the back of the net to draw Forest level.
Rovers continued to attack, and a minute later they could have taken the lead with a powerful shot from 12 yards, but Simkin was equal to it with an incredible diving save.
This seemed to inspire the rest of the team, and they rolled up their sleeves and forced their way back into the game. The midfield still seemed a little crowded, but they were now getting balls out to the flanks again, and with it, Rourke up front was seeing a lot more of the ball.
Manager Steve Phelps still felt that he needed to free up the play in the centre of the park by taking off a midfielder and going to a 4-4-2 formation, but before he could introduce Amy Wild on 66 minutes, Nardiello grabbed the ball and raced down the left. She advanced into the box and crossed in for Rourke to have a go. The 'keeper just managed to get the ball away, but only as far as Tewkesbury who slid home from two yards.
Phelps still made his substitution, and immediately his side had better balance, attacking with more success. On 71 minutes Nardiello grabbed the ball again on the left and sent a long pass to Tewkesbury on the right to cross in to Roe, who danced into the box, and turned the defender beautifully for a good shot that went agonisingly wide.
Amy Wild was having an increasing influence on the game, causing problems with her trickery and speed, and on several occasions opened up the Rovers defence with some wonderful passes, but on 76 minutes she was the recipient when she got on the end of a lovely ball from Kia Bowles to burst into the box to pass to Roe, who again went close, her shot going just over the bar.
A minute later Wild sent an inch perfect ball to Tewkesbury who managed to get in a good shot from just inside the box, but the goalkeeper smothered it for the save, and minutes later Wild received a great ball from Roe, who in turn set up Rourke to go close with a decent lob shot.
Rovers rallied late on, and the Glovers had to be at their best to prevent an equaliser. Dodge was still showing great form and was performing miracles in front of goal, making a number of excellent saves.
Kinga seemed intent on scoring, but the best chance went to former Yeovil player Alana Willson, who received the ball to the right of the box in injury time, and did well, but fired her shot wide of the goal.
So a big test for the Glovers, but one they passed with flying colours. They showed great character and battling qualities, and will now be full of confidence for new weekend's trip to Havant and Waterlooville.
Yeovil Town Ladies: (4-5-1) Simkin, Bowles, Brazell, Heydon (Lawler - 83), Coles, Edwards, Pearson (Wild - 67), Roe, Tewkesbury, Nardiello, Rourke.