In the morning, a team of girls with varying degrees of experience were part of a six team tournament. Some of our girls are now quite experienced, having been a part of the football club for a while; others in the team were making their very first appearance in a competitive game. There was certainly some nervous energy, but the Ladbrooke Lioness’ team spirit soon helped to settle our players. It is evident that there are some natural leaders in the group and that helps the team to work for each other.

After some tense early matches, we had found a rhythm and began to pass, tackle, and move into space with skill and increasing confidence. It was pleasing (and a bit exciting!) to see some of our best team moves result in stylish goals. By the end of the group games, the league table was a bit complicated. This was because four teams had managed to get the number of points, three teams had scored the same amount of goals, and two teams had the same points, scored the same amount of goals, and conceded the same amount of goals. There was no way to separate the teams and decide who progressed to the semi-finals, except the old tried and tested, and much dreaded, penalty shoot-out. Unfortunately, on this occasion our final penalty crashed into the cross bar and bounced agonisingly onto the back of the goal net. This meant our girls were knocked out of the tournament, but there is no doubt that they will get back up again. We were proud of the commitment, effort and spirit of the team and they will look forward to days with happier endings in the future.

In the afternoon, as the weather turned a little wetter, our boys took to the field. This competition involved seven teams. It was clear that there were some very talented footballers on all teams, and our merry band of parent supporters were excited to see our boys in action – they knew they would have to be at their best.

Our first two games were close, but we managed to pass the ball well and score some excellent team goals. Our defending could be described as a little casual and at times desperate, as our last player rushed to tackle the opposition forwards in the nick of time. We were having some trouble deciding on our best formation, as we are a very attacking team. A volunteer stepped forward and asked to play in goal, and this changed our day. He made it clear that all good attacks start with a strong defence, and we never looked back.

Before the end of the group games, we knew that we had enough points to make it through to the semi-finals, and before the end of the semi-finals, we knew we were going to make the final. One of the referees took the time to give our team the compliment that they were playing so well because they were all part of a team and selfless in how they passed.

It looked as though we would win the final, until the last minute. A late equaliser for the opposition sent us again into a penalty shoot-out. This time it would decide the tournament winners, so the pressure was even more intense. All of our players will tell you that when the hard work has been done, and you have to step forward to take responsibility, it can be exhilarating but also daunting. Every player managed to score, and the shoot-out went into a sudden death phase – one miss and you lose. With remarkable symmetry, we looked on as the opposition’s final penalty smashed into the crossbar and bounced agonisingly onto the back of the net. Our final penalty taker stepped forward and to rapturous cheering placed his winning penalty to the left of the goal keeper. A short pause of realisation, before a release of joy. We had won the tournament. It was very pleasing to see that each of our players went first to commiserate with the opposition players before celebrations got under way – a very sporting way to end a great day.

Well done to both sets of players. Win, lose or draw, our football club is showing all of the characteristics that lead to success. Sometimes that is shiny and silver, and sometimes that is simply the pride that comes with playing your part as well as you can.