A game of two halves, a season of two halves, it’s something which can be attributed to Neil Matthews and his Arnold Eagles side as they prepare for what, on paper at least, is a tough, East Midlands Women’s Regional Football League, League Cup final.
In the league, Arnold have struggled, badly, finishing bottom of the table having not won in the Premier Division all season long, picking up just three points from their sixteen games; a narrow, 3-2 loss at home to Anstey Nomads, on the opening day, certainly set the tone for what was to come.
A 1-1 draw at home to Mansfield Town, in the league, in mid-November, provided false hope when, just a week later, that same Mansfield side inflicted a 6-1 lesson on them in the Notts FA County Cup.
However, the week before the two Mansfield games, the Eagles had begun a different journey, one which has seen them scoring goals, winning games, and to a cup final, where they’ll face Lincoln United on finals day.
“It’s been a bad season (league-wise) and everybody is ready for a break,” admitted Neil Matthews, Head Coach at Arnold Eagles.
“We’ve had a few, major injuries, which has had the obvious impact on the squad, but the table, it doesn’t lie.
“Yes, we’ve been competitive in games, but we’ve not been effective enough, and not taken the chances presented to us; that’s what’s let us down, that and giving away way too many chances.”
Mansfield Town (h), Chesterfield (a), and Lincoln United (a) are three of the top sides in the Premier Division, but they are also the three sides in which Arnold Eagles have collected draws against, the only three points they’ve earnt all season.
The League Cup, Peterborough United Development were beaten 4-0, before consecutive, 3-2 wins, over Kettering Town, then Chesterfield, as the Eagles, surprisingly, found themselves flying in to the cup semi-finals, where they’d cause another upset in ousting Oughtibridge War Memorial in a seven-goal thriller at home.
“The three draws (in the league) were against the bigger sides in the division, and I believe we should have got something against County as well,” continued Matthews.
“The players though, they’ve grown into the season, it’s just that, what has happened, we know it’s our fault, and have struggled not having any depth.”
Goals though, they’ve been that plentiful in the cup run, fourteen netted in just four games, that the average eclipses their league record of fifteen, in sixteen league games.
Natasha Leach has netted six of the fourteen, and Eve Shaw four, both of them registering hat-tricks, Leach with all three in the win over Chesterfield, and Shaw, in the semi-final clash with Oughtibridge, a game in which the Notts club edged, 4-3.
Now though, it’s time to face Lincoln United again as Arnold Eagles look to put a poor league campaign behind them, with victory in the cup.
“We know we’re massive underdogs going into the final,” added the Eagles boss.
“I really thought that they (Lincoln), would get promoted this season, but you sometimes also overthink things as well.
“Me, I’ve been back through the games this season and, if we had got a win early on, maybe it would have been different.
“Now though, we’ve got to enjoy this occasion, relax, and show people that we can play.
“It’s a great occasion, and there’s no pressure on us, it’s all in Lincoln; we’ve ran them close before though, so we just need to draw on that, show some ambition, and what happens, happens.
“We’re under no illusions though, we’re in for a really tough game come match-day.”
Arnold Eagles oppose Lincoln United in the EMWRFL League Cup this Sunday 21 May, at Eagle Valley, Arnold (cup finals day will see the Plate final kick-off at 11:00, followed by the Cup final at 15:00, followed by the EMWRFL Presentation Evening on the night).
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @EdMayesPhoto Arnold in recent league action against Lincoln United.