Fleet beat, four-nowt

A week of intermittent rain had forced some of Teddington’s sister (and brother) teams into postponements as early as Friday, but Fleet Town have a fixture backlog and their Oakley Park pitch was easily in a playable condition under a brisk wintry Hampshire sky.

As is ever the case, Teddington had a staffing shortfall. This time the enforced absentees were Amy Hallett and Ella Bothamley, the latter ending a 15-game ever-present streak and missing only her second game since Christmas 2015.

With Annabel Taiwo struggling to find the venue – albeit not as spectacularly as Amy’s detour last year via Box Hill – it looked for a while like Teddington might be down to 11, but Annabel bounded over for thre end of the warm-up and a watching brief on the bench. Saskia was welcomed back for her second appearance of the season and slotted in at left-back alongside Millie Theobald, Sarah Dillamore and, reverting to the right-back role in which she excelled at Hampton, Emily Bashford.

Bash’s nine appearances this season have come in five different positions – left-back, centre-back in a three, right-back, right wing-back and right wing – and she would finish this game on the left wing. To a manager, such players are a dream, and a saviour when numbers are low.

Speaking of adaptability, Frances Clark – who so far in her 10-game Teddington career has played left-back, left wing-back, left wing and right-back – moved forward to the left flank, with Emily Coulson switching to the right of Ella Dodd. At the centre of it all, the usual midfield triumvirate of Giulia Clini, Liz Kriebel and Carla Novakovic represented a stable core.

Playing into the sun, Teddington took 10 minutes to open the score with a fine team move. Supporting Emily high on the right wing, Bash centred along the 18-yard line; it was scrambled out to the left flank, where Fran survived a clattering challenge to lay the ball forward for Carla. The captain’s left-footed cross marginally evaded Doddsy but Emily, by now loitering between the posts, used her right foot to control it past a helpless defender and her left to tidy it into the bottom corner.

That brought her level with Liz on five goals, but only for two minutes. Leading the line in her usual style, Doddsy stole some space away from her marker and executed the flick-on; it didn’t quite get there but the half-clearance fell to Liz, bang-centre 25 yards out. Anyone who’s watched a Teddington training session knew precisely what was coming, and the American’s lovely effort floated over the goalkeeper to put the visitors in control. Finding pockets of space with increasing intelligence, Liz has now scored in three successive games, and long may the run continue.

Fleet endeavoured to rally, knocking balls over the top of an offside line constantly getting stronger and higher. It took them until two minutes from half-time to fashion a real chance, breaking through middle of an unusually somnambulant Teddington defence but dragging it wide of Jen’s post; the stand-in goalkeeper did seem to have it covered.

By then, up the sunny end, Liz had drifted one just wide of the post; Carla had sent Emily down the right for a cross which Doddsy couldn’t quite reach; then Doddsy had laid off for Liz to fire in a fierce shot on the angle which the goalkeeper was happy to palm away, with nobody there for the rebound.

That, perhaps, was because Doddsy had yet again been involved in the build-up, as she so often is. The likeable centre-forward can sometimes despair at her lack of goals, but she is developing into a fine all-round player, not only perpetually aware of the movement of her team-mates but also willing and crucially able to bring them into play. If she really wants to get among the goals, she may have to be a tad more selfish, to stop coming so deep, and to leave the running and creativity to her team-mates.

She was told all this on the touchline while resting, having been substituted off for Annabel on 34 minutes. But as it turned out, she wouldn’t come back on up front, because the substitute was about to have the most impressive game of her Teddington career.

Her first moment of note came right at the start of the second half. Having won a right-wing corner by ceaselessly chasing down the defenders, she was perfectly positioned on the edge of the six-yard box to receive Liz’s typically accurate corner. But nobody expected the acrobatic mid-air volley Annabel instinctively attempted, a bravura effort befitting the No.14 she wears on her back – the number of Johan Cruyff and Thierry Henry, each of whom would have applauded the effort and wished they’d executed it. Scorching just past the post, it could’ve been a contender for goal of the season, but that would have to wait a few minutes.

First Teddington had some defending to do as Fleet started the second half in fiery fashion, forcing a couple of corners in quick succession, the second cleared off the line by Dillers. Had Fleet turned 2-0 to 2-1, it could have been a nervy second half in the style of the win at Hampton. Instead, in the 47th minute Teddington went up the other end and made it 3-0 – via none other than Saskia Brewster.

It started with laudable Doddsian work from Annabel, holding the ball up in the centre-circle and laying back to Fran, who calmly rolled the ball into the path of the galloping overlapper. Saskia simply stampeded forward at such a lick that it seemed like she’d run out of pitch, but just as it looked like she’d taken it too wide she leathered the ball toward the near top corner; the goalkeeper’s parry was excellent but insufficient to stop Sas scoring only her second goal in 78 appearances, and her first since the header in the cup semi-final 364 days previously.

Clearly enjoying herself, Annabel executed a lovely turn on the edge of the box past a defender but couldn’t quite finish with her left. Then sweeper-keeper Jen zoomed out of her area to clear and forgot to go back in, instead hanging around at right-back. She went back in eventually, apologetically. She does everything apologetically, even the stuff she does brilliantly.

In the 56th minute, a beautiful goal from Giulia Clini exemplified precisely why Teddington are flying at the moment. The Italian had been battling among the midfield mud and thunder all day, and the coaches were just briefing Doddsy to give her a breather when she won the ball among the flying feet in the centre-circle, played a one-two with Fran to her left, moved toward goal and laid off to Liz, who played a delightful return forward to the edge of the box. Continuing her run, Giulia calmly lifted the ball into the top corner for the sort of goal that all observers – players, supporters, coaches – can do nothing but applaud. Like her team, she earned the right to play then showed herself very capable of it, matching attitude with aptitude, guts with guile, graft with craft.

Two minutes later, still a little jingling from the fourth goal, Teddington allowed Fleet through – but Jen came out to tackle, then to punch the ball away. Millie arrived to clear to Giulia, who played a little round-the corner ball to Liz, who sent Fran haring down the left, but her cross was defended successfully.

Teddington continued to press. They had three efforts the space of 15 seconds when Fran’s lovely angled cross-field ball sent Emily to sting the goalkeeper hands, then Liz had a shot cleared, then Giulia reset for Carla to send one wide from 25 yards.

Just after the hour Giulia was applauded from the pitch, replaced by Doddsy – another player with the Teddington trademark of adaptability. She’s been impressive up front for 18 months but settled straight back into midfield, again with that combination of fearlessness and finesse.

The girls may not have loved their summer fitness schedule but it is paying off handsomely on the heavy pitches: they simply look fitter than their opponents, no matter how often their managers roll the substitute dice. In this instance, Giulia got all of nine minutes off before bouncing back into action when Fran suffered an elbow in the neck; her left-wing role was taken by Bash with Giulia into midfield and Carla fitting in at right-back. The skipper looked slightly confused but she’s the queen of adaptability, having played in every single outfield position for the team.

Surprising herself a little by lasting the pace, Annabel displayed another lovely touch, those graceful long legs bringing the ball down beautifully out of the sky and knocking it past the defender. Her performance had deserved a goal and she was inches from it when she almost connected with a cross from Doddsy, who had cleverly found space down the wing to collect her mate Carla’s throw.

In the end Teddington had to settle for 4-0 when in truth there was a greater disparity between the teams. At least they could enjoy a clean sheet, their first in 13 games, since beating Carshalton 1-0 in both ‘halves’ of a one-day double-header. As for full 80-minute matches, this was the first clean sheet in 17 attempts since beating Abbey 4-0 in an unforgettable Cup semi-final… 364 days previously. Saskia scored that day too. Obviously she likes late January.

The clean sheet is credit to Jen, who is a much better goalkeeper than she thinks, and to her defence, marshalled expertly here by two dyed-in-the-wool centre-backs Millie’n’Dillers. The players in front of them work hard to earn the right to play, and look capable of scoring from several sources. Even with top-scorer Boz absent, four different girls found the net, making it six different scorers in the last two games. Truly, this is a team.

A win next Sunday against Abbey Rangers would register the perfect half-term – four wins from four – and would hoist Teddington into fifth place, two points clear of the inactive Hampton & Richmond, yet still with a game in hand on their Bushy Park-based rivals. Their final four games may include some tough challenges, but playing like this, Teddington need fear no one.

TEDDINGTON ATHLETIC Jen Neves, Emily Bashford, Sarah Dillamore, Millie Theobald, Saskia Brewster (1), Carla Novakovic, Liz Kriebel (1), Emily Coulson (1), Giulia Clini (1), Frances Clark, Ella Dodd. Sub: Annabel Taiwo.

South Park swept aside by resurgent U16 Girls

South Park U16G v. Teddington Athletic U16G

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A mild noon kick-off in Reigate, at the foot of the chalky downs in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This was your reporter’s first visit, although Teddington Athletic have been to South Park’s tidy little home ground twice before, winning on both occasions.

However, any possible sign of complacency at facing the Premier Division’s bottom club was ruthlessly stamped out. South Park have struggled this season but their three most recent games had been a narrow 3-1 loss to AFC Wimbledon, an even tighter 2-1 reverse to Hampton & Richmond and a 3-3 with Abbey Rangers.

For the fourth time in the season’s 10 games, Teddington were down to a bare 11. Emily Bashford and Annabel Taiwo were unavailable, as were Saskia Brewster and the presumably departed Ruby Rudkin. However, Sarah Dillamore returned at centre-back and Amy Hallett – who’s come a long way in the three years since she scored at South Park as a striker – happily switched into the attacking right-back role in which her great mate Bash did so well last week.

Teddington were otherwise unchanged from last week’s victory at Hampton and soon set about their hosts. Within two minutes Ella Dodd split right to send in a cross from which Carla Novakovic did well to roll her centre-back and set up Emily Coulson, but the goalkeeper parried the shot and Doddsy couldn’t reach the rebound. Em went close again a couple of minutes later, a half-volley from an Ella Bothamley cross squeaking just wide of the far post.

So it wasn’t a surprise when Teddington took the lead in the fifth minute. For all the team’s laudable desire to play attractive football, their success must be built upon a desire to do the dirty work first, battling to get possession: win the ball and you win the right to play. Such was certainly the case at Hampton, and it happened again at South Park.

Frances Clark, asked to reprise the attacking left-back role that had helped destroy her old Hampton team-mates, was already limping slightly after one tough challenge, and Emily winced after another – but not enough to stop her tracking back down the left to put in a tackle. Recycling through Giulia Clini, Em received the return pass out wide and crossed for Boz to nip in front of the defender and finish first-time under the goalkeeper.

South Park set out their own stall, playing through-balls down the noticeable slope. It took them 10 minutes to get in behind Teddington, and even then the centre-back combination of Dillers and Millie Theobald scampered back and limited the striker’s options to a tame shot easily saved by Jen Neves.

The stand-in goalkeeper then went the best part of 15 minutes without touching the ball as Teddington took control: thwarting the long balls, gaining possession, seeking team-mates, working their way up the hill. Having had a shot saved after cutting in from left, Emily then sent a diagonal for Boz to pull just wide of the far post. Boz turned provider with a run up the right followed by a cross well-met by Doddsy’s header, but the centre-forward’s run had darted outside the near post and she couldn’t quite turn her effort back towards goal.

Still South Park sent the ball whizzing down the hill, mainly trying to feed their right-winger, and with 25 minutes this tactic produced their clearest chance of the half. The goalkeeper’s drop-kick bounced through, the winger’s centre crossed the six-yard box, but Amy did enough to shepherd away from danger. Millie defused another attack but Jen was then called into action, saving at her near post, before haring out of her box to clear the latest long-range heat-seeker.

Jen’s good with her hands, but her outfield experience allows her to operate as a sweeper-keeper, tidying up any overenthusiastic through-balls and able to recycle the ball intelligently. This allows Teddington to quickly counter, one attack threading balls between Liz Kriebel, Carla and Emily; the next one, on the half-hour, would put them two goals clear.

It started with the skipper, Carla digging back to end an attack. Some players might have hoofed into touch or blindly up the pitch, but Carla calmly found Emily, who stepped infield to send a diagonal to Boz, who set off down the right. Reaching the byline, she pulled back for Liz, arriving late, to lash home.

The visitors reached half-time 2-0 up and knowing that the not inconsiderable slope was now in their favour – and, perhaps more crucially, against South Park. The hard yards of fitness training Teddington’s squad put in over summer and on regular occasions since are now starting to come into their own; despite only having 11 on this occasion, and 12 including a visibly unwell Doddsy in the previous game at Hampton, the girls have been notably fitter than their multi-substituted opponents on both occasions.

Still, the home side came out determined to get back into the game, and three minutes after the oranges there was a flurry of activity in Teddington’s area. Dillers sacrificed a boot while blocking a shot on the six-yard line, then a combination of Carla and Giulia smothered the follow-up in the D to complete the recovery.

An early deficit-halver might have necessitated a rearguard action, as at Hampton. Instead, thereafter it was almost all Teddington. With South Park’s wingers finding it more tiring to run uphill than downhill, Fran and Amy had more opportunity to overload the midfield, while Liz – being filmed again for GCSE – was shooting from distance, albeit with somewhat more regularity than accuracy.

Ten minutes in, the third goal killed the contest. Boz’s cross from the right landed with Liz, whose screwed left-footer fell for Emily; she reset for Giulia to have a shot blocked on the six-yard line, which in turn dropped for Boz to unceremoniously wallop high past the goalkeeper and in off the bar. South Park had survived shots from shirt numbers 15 and 16, but not 17.

Three became four just before the hour, with Teddington showing a useful ability to score from a set-piece. Taking a free-kick at the back of the centre-circle, Carla surprised herself by playing a long diagonal to Boz on the angle; soon she set Doddsy to roll a defender and poke home left-footed under the keeper and into the far corner for a warmly-welcomed goal. It’s the centre-forward’s first since September, but her game is about much more than goals and her selfless, knowledgeable, ever-developing team play is absolutely crucial to Teddington performing at their best.

The Fran got in amongst matters. On the hour, she cut inside from the left and unleashed a bazooka toward the top corner which the goalkeeper did well to reach, and two minutes later she helped make it 5-0. Her quickly-taken throw on the left sent Em to cross for the two Ellas. Doddsy couldn’t quite reach it but her run made space for Boz, arriving inside the back post to take it down and tuck home her hat-trick. Boz has now matched last season’s total of nine and surpassed her 2015/16 total of eight, with six games still to go. She’s also edged above Ale Fairn to go fifth in TAFC’s all-time scorers table with 29 goals from 48 games.

Intriguingly, it’s the first Teddington treble for this reliable scorer: her 29 strikes have come in 21 games, a sign of her dependability. South Park were her first victims back in September 2015, and since then she’s also scored past Kempton Girls, Crystal Palace (Reds), Fleet Town, Crystal Palace Blues, Maidenhead, AFC Wimbledon, Hampton (with and without Richmond), Abbey Rangers and Carshalton. Not bad for a girl who came to Teddington somewhat disenchanted with football; it’s fair to say she has rediscovered her spark and brings joy to many, not least herself.

The hosts immediately pulled a goal back, breaking Teddington’s excellent offside trap and slipping the ball expertly under the onrushing Jen, but five minutes later the visitors restored the five-goal cushion with a dose of South Park’s medicine. Dillers distributed to Amy, who found Boz deep inside her half; glancing up to see Doddsy already on the shoulder of the last defender and looking for the through ball, Boz sent a searcher which Doddsy collected, controlled and despatched past the keeper.

The only question now was how many, and the visiting 11 didn’t let up. With three minutes to go a fluffed clearance was seized upon by Liz, who spied the big gap where the goalkeeper wasn’t and drilled in from distance. That’s four in the last four games for the American, who looks fitter than ever and is starting to find lots of little pockets from which to shoot; she needs four more to have her best goalscoring season, and you wouldn’t bet against her.

This was Teddington’s biggest margin of victory in just shy of two years, and fully deserved; their first consecutive victories of the season have started 2018 in precisely the right frame of mind, each one moving them a notch up the league table. With their final six fixtures now scheduled, after next weekend’s interesting rematch with Wimbledon they have three successive games against mid-table rivals: Fleet, Abbey and Fleet again.

Their campaign is set to end with trips to the division’s top two teams, QPR then Crystal Palace. It’s a tough end, but one that the girls can look forward to: if they play like this, they can show just how far they’ve come. As a small example, three Januarys ago they won 5-1 at South Park, the following season it was 6-2 and now 7-1. But those are just results.

More importantly, across the arc of the half-decade they’ve been together they have grown as players: adaptable, intelligent and seeking to play a style of football as beautiful as the countryside they lit up on Sunday. Those are life lessons they can keep on board forever, wherever their careers and lives take them.

TEDDINGTON ATHLETIC Jen Neves, Amy Hallett, Sarah Dillamore, Millie Theobald, Frances Clark, Carla Novakovic, Liz Kriebel (2), Ella Bothamley (3), Giulia Clini, Emily Coulson, Ella Dodd (2).

U16 Girls back on form and back on the rise

Hampton & Richmond U16G v. Teddington Athletic U16G

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Teddington’s 2018 adventures opened on a bright and breezy day with an increasing wind whipping across Hampton’s home enclosure at King’s Field. As is the way of the season so far, they were understaffed, this time with three players out.

Completing her Christmas show commitments, Sarah Dillamore was unable to play a ‘home’ game three minutes’ walk from her front door. Saskia Brewster was also frustrated to be unavailable, having thoroughly enjoyed Friday’s productive training session. Perhaps more permanently, Ruby Rudkin’s absence presumably means she has indeed left the club.

Teddington are nothing if not adaptable, though, and Jen Neves willingly slipped back into the gloves, behind a back four of Millie Theobald and Amy Hallett flanked by flying full-backs Fran Clark and Emily Bashford – both of them more used to playing further forward but fully expected and encouraged to overlap into the attack.

Further forward, the girls were more settled in their roles: Carla Novakovic, Liz Kriebel and Giulia Clini as the midfield triangle behind an attacking triumvirate of Emily Coulson, Ella Dodd and Ella Bothamley. Doddsy, bless her, had been bed-ridden with a virus for most of the week but turned up swathed in a thick coat, determined to play. Such tenacity should be rewarded and the management decided to start with her and see how she did.

She did very well indeed, helping Teddington roar out of the traps: within the first two minutes the team created three chances. First Em sent Doddsy dribbling along the edge of the 18-yard box to shoot, albeit lacking the requisite power. Then Liz beautifully found Boz whose first-time shot forced a corner – which Emily volleyed just over from six yards.

Teddington had started with similar brightness in the season opener at Udney Park, which they dominated in the first half before a stomach-churning last-kick loss. On that day, two of Hampton’s three goals came from set-pieces, and warning was served in the fourth minute when the home side’s corner-kick flew across the goalmouth less than a yard out but managed to avoid all human contact.

The visitors also looked dangerous from flag-kicks: Liz from the left, Boz from the right. In the fifth minute, Liz wall-passed herself into a position to shoot, forcing the goalkeeper to push wide; two minutes later, Boz’s fizzer was almost nodded in from close range by Emily.

The only surprise about Teddington taking the lead was that it had didn’t happen until the 14th minute, but it was a moment of genuine quality from Doddsy. Making herself available for a quickly-taken throw high on the right wing, she expertly rolled her marker to drive in on the angle; it looked like she’d gone a little wide, but that turned out to be part of the plan as it drew defenders to her, allowing her to square along the six-yard line for Emily to sidefoot home her fourth of the season.

Two minutes later they were at it again down the right. Amy collected at the back of the centre-circle and recycled wide to Bash, who sent Boz on to curl a gorgeous De Bruyne-like ball in behind the defence for Doddsy to run on to. The goalkeeper saved her first effort and was relieved to see the second screwed wide, but she was soon busy again as Liz tiptoed through the tackles around the D and sent in a left-foot tester.

Within the first quarter of the game Hampton were making substitutions, presumably at least as much tactical as rotational, but Teddington had no need to change. With a watching brief from the bench, Annabel Taiwo would be capable of playing in a few positions but was chiefly waiting for Doddsy to tire.

No sign yet, though. More Teddington pressure culminated in a corner from left, Doddsy setting up Boz to drag a left-foot shot wide from the far corner of the six-yard box.

Teddington needed the just deserts of a second goal and almost got one a minute later when Doddsy could’ve doubled the difference. Played in from the right, she took a couple of touches to steady herself before firing past the goalkeeper, only to see an outstretched leg deflect it wide for a corner.

From that set-piece the home side counter-attacked rapidly, and it required a typically superb Amy intervention to hold up the dangerous forward Mia, shepherd her away from goal then slide the ball behind for Hampton’s second corner, to the noticeable excitement of the home contingent; however, this time Millie T was able to commandeer and clear the ball.

It bears repeating that Amy, who began her Teddington career as a striker and almost ended it over summer in the mistaken belief that she’s not an important team member, has been wonderfully consistent in defence - so much so that she may even be beginning to believe she can play football.

Of course she can. They all can. Take her good mate Bash, alongside her at right-back: she’d never claim to be a defender, but she fulfilled that role with ceaseless energy and enthusiasm, darting back to defend before bombing on to join the attack. And on the half-hour she might have scored her second of the season, arriving on the edge of the box to lift a shot toward the top corner which demanded a save from the overworked goalkeeper.

A minute later, Teddington got the second goal their dominance warranted. Collecting the rebound from Doddsy’s fierce blocked shot, Liz’s left-foot shot deflected past a goalkeeper who would have done well to stop it anyway.

With that, Doddsy left the field for a well-deserved break, swaddled once more in heavy clothing. On came Annabel, who joined the club a couple of months ago having previously played as a striker. Since then she’s appeared as a dominant central defender and an energetically overlapping wingback; she may well also be a strong option as a defensive midfielder, but here she returned to her original role up front with the usual fearless brio.

With two minutes to go, Hampton played a through-ball, as a Hampton do, and for the first time Bash was guilty of springing her own team’s offside trap, lingering a few yards behind her buddies and playing the striker on. But Bash being Bash, she simply pelted across to accost Mia and force her to shoot wide.

The half-time talk was positive but guarded against complacency: at Udney, Hampton had come from behind to win, largely by winning the physical battle against their overly polite hosts. The message was simple: by all means play your pleasingly attractive football once you have the ball, but in order to get it in the first place you might have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.

Fran Clark was certainly keen enough to do so. Returning to her old patch for the first time since the summer switch across Bushy Park, she was in a left-back berth which placed her directly in front of her old supporters. Having represented Hampton as a left-winger, Fran is another who might not consider herself a defender – notably, when a Friday night training drill required “attackers in yellow bibs, defenders in blue”, she donned the yellow – but she has proven herself very capable of playing there when occasion demands.

Such was the case at Hampton: like Bash on the other side, she combined diligent defending – including pacy recovery but also the necessary physicals – with a desire and ability to fly forward. And so she did in the opening minute of the second half, leaving those home supporters far behind her as she soared goalwards up the inside-left channel, creating some interesting footage for her GCSE PE project and almost creating a third goal for her new team.

Instead, the third goal came almost immediately at the other end. Having dispossessed their old mate Fran, Hampton whacked the ball down the hill for the forward – notably more awake than Teddington’s remaining defenders – to race onto and finish high past Jen. This felt a lot like history repeating: would Teddington fold again in the face of pressure from a rampant Hampton?

Short answer: no. For 39 minutes plus a shade of injury time, the visitors showed the requisite determination to stand up to their hosts, winning slightly more than their fair share of possession and using it with the same fearless dedication to fast-flowing inter-passing football that makes them such a pleasure to watch. This was to be a very different half to what had gone before, one in which Teddington would prove their mettle.

Within a minute of conceding they were back on the attack. Leading from the front and growing into her role, Annabel bustled past two or three players before being thwarted by the goalkeeper. Then on the angle of the box, the Hampton right-back brusquely ended Em’s run down the left; Liz’s direct free-kick drifted just wide of the far post.

Boz was hovering under that effort, straining to reach it but not quite unable to turn it in, and Teddington’s top scorer kept turning the screw. She tested the goalkeeper after collecting Liz’s clever diagonal, then her right-wing corner allowed Annabel a volley from eight yards which was well blocked and the rebound hurriedly collected before Giulia could pounce.

By now the ball was pinging from end to end, and ten minutes in Hampton hit the post. With Teddington’s defenders on the halfway line, a long ball over the top sent the right-winger No.7 cutting inside to shoot; just as her opposite number had in the first half, Jen flung out a right heel to deflect it away from the net, this one bouncing off the post and away.

Still the pendulum swung. A well-worked Teddington corner made its way from the left to the inside-right channel, where Bash pinged a 12-yard shot over. Then Mia broke Teddington’s offside trap to race through but drag it wide of the far post.

Just before the hour, Boz collected the ball just inside the Hampton half, surrounded by a thicket of home players. Five yards to her left, Liz saw the gap and pelted forward while screaming for the pass, duly delivered by her mate to the edge of the box; confidently attempting a lob first-time on the bounce, she sent it just wide of the post.

Halfway through the half, Teddington had a period of midfield domination which led to a succession of chances. Em tricked her way down the left and sent a cross fizzing across goal; with Annabel dropping off, Boz made the near-post run but couldn’t quite connect. Within 30 seconds, the ball was winging in from the other side as Boz tore past the left-back and crossed – this time narrowly missing Annabel and Carla.

Then Fran went closest of all, cutting in from the left and sending a right-foot hammer just wide of the far post. A minute later she had another pop, this one tamer, but Teddington’s tenacity and overloading of the midfield were making them the likelier next scorers in an absorbing game. A typically tough tackle from Carla bounced slightly fortuitously to send Annabel through, the stand-in striker calmly dragging it from her left foot to her right but seeing a defensive block take the sting out of her shot.

Having warmed to her role and given the team a fresh option up front, Annabel was withdrawn with 14 minutes to go for the returning Doddsy, freshly divested of scarf, hoodie and overcoat. She arrived just in time to see Hampton hit the post again, shooting from an unpromisingly narrow angle on the right; they would have scored the rebound if Amy hadn’t been there to calmly collect.

By now your reporter was not so much making notes as commentating. Having gathered the rebound from the post in her own box, Amy drove forward and switched the play to Em high on the left, whose cross bypassed the still-acclimatising Doddsy and found Boz to fire wide. Then Em’s left-foot shot from the D was pushed wide by the goalkeeper; the corner was recycled to Boz, whose cross-come-shot was cleared off the line to anguished squeaks from both touchlines.

With Hampton built for the counter-attack, a pulsating game was being played mainly in the home half but threatened goals at either end. Teddington appeared to be taking it in turns to have their shots blocked in melées which would be cleared, gathered in the centre circle by Millie T and recycled again, rinse and repeat – first Bash, then Liz, then Emily.

Giulia’s shot wasn’t blocked because it narrowly cleared the crossbar, the midfielder denied a goal that her battling performance warranted. Also meriting reward was Boz, toasting the left-back at will and drifting a shot just over the near post.

Liz, looking fully fit and gaining a taste for driving forward, also sent another shot just wide before demonstrating her ability in the midfield battle: dragging the ball right-footed behind her standing leg, she created the space to send a left-foot alley-ball onto which Boz pounced, cut inside and shot on her left, the drifting effort forcing the goalkeeper to adjust her footing and grab gratefully onto the ball.

Even with two minutes to go it would still be foolish to predict a result, and when Hampton won a corner as the game ticked into overtime, the stomach lurched with sickening familiarity. But the girls stood firm, won the ball and cleared it to the sound of the referee’s final whistle.

Just over a month after their previous game, a horrible record-breaking 8-3 loss at Wimbledon, Teddington have gone from the team’s worst-ever performance to one of the best. If the aim is to create flexible players who can work hard to retain or regain the ball and then use it with intelligence and fluidity, this was one of Teddington Athletic’s finest hours. Should they put in such performances over the rest of what will probably be their final season, they will win games and fly up the league; more importantly, they will do themselves justice and enjoy their football.

TEDDINGTON ATHLETIC Jen Neves; Emily Bashford, Amy Hallett, Millie Theobald, Fran Clark, Carla Novakovic, Liz Kriebel (1g), Ella Bothamley, Giulia Clini, Emily Coulson (1g), Ella Dodd. Sub: Annabel Taiwo.