Welsh pride sees Swans finish with a big flourish
Conference West round-up
SWANSEA City skipper Natalie Blyth hailed the never-say-die attitude of her team-mates after they ended the season with a last-gasp win over Trojans in the Conference West.
Sophie Clayton netted the only goal of the game seconds from time to give the visitors a 1-0 win and ensure the Welsh side ended the season with a fourth straight victory.
The team also were indebted to Abi Welsford, who filled in between the sticks due to the late absence of regular keeper Anna Lugg-Morris.
Welsford pulled off a string of impressive saves to keep the match goalless, despite not being a specialised goalkeeper.
After an indifferent season, Swansea’s strong finish to the campaign has captain Blyth in positive mood ahead of the new campaign.
“It’s been an interesting season with new players coming on board; we’ve had a mix of youngsters and very, very experienced players,” she said.
“We struggled at the start of the season to get our blend together, and unfortunately for us we couldn’t get any momentum going.
“In the latter part we have just seemed to click. Usually at this point of the season, everyone’s lost a bit of motivation.
“For us, even though we didn’t have anything specific to play for, everyone was really focused on winning.
“I couldn’t tell you the reason for it, but in the last few games we found a really positive tenacity and desire to do well.”
The result saw Swansea finish the division fourth with 31 points from 18 matches, leap-frogging Saturday’s opponents Trojans on goal difference.
Elsewhere, champions Buckingham ended their regular season in scintillating fashion, thumping already-relegated Bristol Firebrands 10-1 to ensure they entered the promotion play-offs in fine form.
Phoebe Richards grabbed a hat-trick for Bucks, and Lauren Thomas a brace for the hosts, with Natasha James, Abbie Brant, Alice Rolfe, Lottie Porter and Alexandra Naughalty also finding the net.
Lora Symonds’ brace helped runners-up Stourport beat eighth-placed Oxford Hawks 2-1, and she finished the season as the division’s top scorer with 22 goals.
Sally Walton hit a hattrick as Olton and West Warwicks scored six second half goals in a 6-1 demolition of secondfrom-bottom Exe, while Isca University and Gloucester City ended the season with a 0-0 draw, finishing sixth and seventh respectively.
Blyth confirmed Swansea are set to lose just one player – SarahJayne Thornton – ahead of next season as things stand, and added the continuity of selection, coupled with the momentum created at the end of this campaign, will stand them in good stead next term.
“Next season, we’re going to push for promotion as we say every year, but because there won’t be much change within our team, it’s actually looking really positive for September,” Blyth said.
“It’s priceless for us to keep our core. They become our base and you’ve got to have that foundation and have good players coming in on the outskirts.
“You need that set of core players that are driving the team and driving the standards.
“It’s really hard to get continuous results. What we’re aiming for next season is consistency, because our results have been up and down.
“We had a look at our stats and our away success rate was really, really poor. That’s our focus now, going into the new season, because we’re a good team. We just need to make sure we score, because goals win games.
“Our attacking game needs a lot of focus – we’ve always had a strong defence. Wales, as a nation, are known as good defenders, but we need to focus on our attack.”