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After a stop-start season plagued by Covid, Spencer Women’s 1s were chomping at the bit to start the 2021/22 season.
A league restructure saw the team placed in the London League for the first time. Unsurprisingly, the aim was undoubtedly promotion. With the dynamic duo of Joe Chomet and Ross Watkins at the coaching helm, and Libby Orrett leading the team alongside vice-Captain Hayley Nunnely, the potential was palpable.
After some promising preseason fixtures, the season opener rolled around, and it would prove to be the perfect start. An 8-0 hammering of Wapping 2s at the Fieldview fortress. This fine form would continue as the 1’s racked up an impressive 30 goals in their first six fixtures, picking off Kings & Alleyns, Southgate, Tulse Hill, Wanderers and West Herts. Hattie Robinson already showing her killer instinct in front of goal and becoming a regular on the scoresheets.
Spencer headed into their first real test of the season two points clear at the top of the table. They welcomed Wapping 1’s to Fieldview aware a defeat here would mean losing top spot. A nervy start from the home team allowed Wapping to capitalise twice with a well drilled short corner routine. They would not hold the lead for long however, with Spencer's centre midfield Talisman Emily Masson, creating some beautiful interplay with Robinson to put Spencer back on level terms. A lapse in concentration, however, saw Wapping once again entrust their short corner team to work their magic. At 3-2 and moments to play, Spencer created a glimmer of hope. A short corner won with the final play of the game.
The pressure was on. But as they had proved multiples times already this season, Spencer kept their heads. Amy Bryant’s deft deflection directed the ball into the bottom right corner. Top spot still intact...just.
With Wapping 1s behind them, for now, Spencer would go on to complete four more victories before the winter break. Halfway there.
Their next big test, however, would come from an unlikely source. Despite an 8-0 demolition at home, Wapping 2’s came out of the blocks fighting at the Lee Valley Centre. Could this be the banana skin that Spencer had been desperately trying to avoid? Not on Ross Watkins' watch. A half time speech that would rival Samuel L Jackson’s Coach Carter roused a somewhat humbled Spencer into action. With three goals in quick succession, the resurgence was complete. Spencer closed out the game 1-4 with lessons learnt.
This unforeseen test was the catalyst for a run of games where Spencer illustrated their strength in depth and ability to undo teams in the final 20 minutes. Even Wapping 1’s were put to the sword by a commanding 2-0 Spencer performance on the road. This excellent run meant the group’s first opportunity to win the league and confirm promotion came with two games in hand. But Chiswick away wouldn't be a cakewalk.
In unprecedented 30-degree weather, it was a cagey start for both teams. Spencer's press, however, kept applying the pressure. And, like so many times this season, Robinson stepped up at the clutch moment. A reverse stick beauty in the first half was doubled in the second to take her tally to an impressive 30 goals for the season. With 'game management' the term of the day, Spencer put on a professional and clinical display to win the league ahead of schedule. No mean feat.
With the ultimate prize already won, what was left to keep the team motivated? An unbeaten season of course!
Teddington stood between Spencer and a perfect run. The hosts had gone from strength to strength in the second part of the season and sat second in the league. This run of form was clear to see as Teddington broke the deadlock first. But unlike seasons of the past, Spencer did not panic. Within five minutes, the visitors nullified the deficit with Penny Joyce providing the goal when it mattered.
Both teams struggled to find the killer blow. Sophia Moss, who had been nothing short of heroic in goal this season, put on another masterful display and kept Spencer in it on multiple occasions. With moments to play the visitors kept out a last surge of pressure from Teddington to record a history-making season for the club. With twenty two unbeaten games, 99 goals and National league hockey secured, the season was well and truly complete.
Women’s 1s Squad 2021/22: Amy Bryant, Anna Sherring, Emily Masson, Faye Kidd, Georgia Everitt, Hayley Nunneley, Hattie Robinson, Hettie Cust, Jodie Bellamy, Libby Orrett (C), Micha Knowles, Penny Joyce, Poppy Harrison, Rachel Cerulus, Rebecca Evans, Sarah Dawkins, Sophia Moss (GK), Sophie Watkiss
Photography by Nick Moss