October got off to a bad start for the Gassy Lassies. Our showpiece first home game at the Estádio da Leaze was dramatically postponed at the last minute due to Forest of Dean Ladies failing to raise a side.
This was a real blow because the men’s team had the weekend off and we had spent all week trying to drum up interest in the now matchless Rovers community. Certainly going by what the fans were saying on social media it was potentially going to be a decent crowd. However it was not to be and just to compound our misery Southmead Community Sport provided the development squad with another walkover three days later.
After I discovered Forest of Dean were going to be no-shows, I quickly made the decision to nip up to Tewkesbury to watch the ressies in action against Bishops Cleeve. An unexpected new Western League tick was highly appealing for Tom the Ground Anorak as the Mitres play at Kayte Lane alongside the men’s team. One of the few sides in our league that play in what I’d call a “proper ground” i.e. not a sports centre or local park. There were about 20 Gasheads who had taken position in the stand between the dugouts. Whether they’d gotten the memo at the last minute and decided to join me in an impromptu away day or it was just the usual selection of friends and family it was lovely to see regardless. Those that made trip witnessed another easy win for the dev girls with goals from Rosie Hall, Charlotte Weeks, Zoe Jones and a peach from Katie Rawlings, with only a consolatory notch from Cleeve’s Leonie Gough in reply. At the time of writing, the development squad have recorded the first loss for a Bristol Rovers WFC (2019) side as they were narrowly bested by Cotswold Rangers 0-1 in Lockleaze. Despite this they still sit pretty at the top of the division two table.
With that settled it was time for the main event of October, a GFA Women’s Cup first round encounter against Forest Green Rovers and our first crack at a team playing in a higher league than us. Arriving in Lockleaze just after kickoff you could immediately see the fans were up for the first game on home (astro)turf. There was little space to be had along the edge of the viewing deck and some intrepid person had brought along the giant “surfer flag” that used to get floated over the Blackthorn End before matches and draped it over the edge of the balcony. I must admit I enjoyed this touch a lot, it shows that there are fans who are ready to make the effort for the women’s side and it really went a long way to making the LSC feel like home. The Gas Girls were in the blue and white quarters whereas Forest Green were resplendent in their green and black home kit for this season, which my friend John uncharitably described as looking “like zebras at Sellafield.”
We were expecting a tough challenge but Rovers (Bristol that is) got off to a flying start with a cross from Jamie-Leigh Worlock that bounced kindly for Georgia Vandries to control, turn and smack over the keepers hands. It was very nearly 2-0 after Rossana Rocha nicked the ball from a Forest defender who was waiting to receive it after her keeper had punched a cross away. With two defenders bearing down on her the Portugese maestres had little option but to try an audacious lob that left the out of position Forest keeper for dead. Fortunately for the Greens their number four happened to be in the net and calmly knocked it clear as it bounced into the 6-yard box. Gas keeper Shawna Hannam had two saves to make in the first half by my count, one was self-inflicted, the result of a mispass and another which came at her via a one-on-one and was a very brave stop at point-blank range. This was really the extent of Forest Green’s chances. Vandries had netted her hat-trick by half time and Rovers were well and truly in control.
Back out in the second half Vandries was involved again as she headed a Rocha corner over the keeper and towards the net, though I think it was an own goal by the FGR number 5 who didn’t do quite as good a job as her teammate at clearing off the line. Rocha collected a ball on the wing and fancy-footworked her way past her marker to slot the ball into the path of the onrushing Libby Bell who poked it home with her first touch. As if the pain wasn’t enough for the now 10 woman visiting side (a player went off injured and they didn’t bring any subs) Rocha decided to indulge in a Hollywood lob from the edge of the box, much to the delight of the home fans for Rovers’ 6th (sixth) goal. Jen Atherton added a cruel and unusual seventh soon after being subbed on and Forest Green Rovers decided to call it a day in what I think is the first instance of me seeing a team forfeit a match.
A staggering demolition of a higher-placed team that saw the girls through to the next round. Our hubris would be short-lived however as in the next round the girls would record their first ever loss against sixth-tier Frampton Rangers at home in the pissing rain. C’est la vie. Concentrate on the league girls!