Sunday 25th April 2021 – The FA Women’s Championship – The Dripping Pan, Lewes
The final chapter in what has been the most surreal and unusual season at The Dripping Pan ended on Sunday with the visit of FA Women’s Championship Champions, Leicester City, to East Sussex and to commemorate the occasion I slipped on the sheepskin jacket and once again picked up the microphone as co-commentator.
I’d made my debut on the airwaves three weeks ago in very different circumstances, being asked to step in literally at the last minute as cameraman and co-commentator at the Liverpool v Lewes game. One of the biggest football clubs in the world couldn’t find enough resource to stream the game, provide any equipment or ensure there was working WiFi at the game played at Prenton Park, so we stepped in, providing the service on a iPad, held onto a tripod with Duct tape and the stream tethered to a 4G signal.
Three weeks later and down at one of the smallest clubs in the Women’s top two tiers Lewes were providing multi-camera, instant replays and expert analysis. A professional streaming service (provided by YourInstant Replay) although my presence on the microphone is perhaps classed as “enthusiastic amateur” rather than “expert”) to cover the final home game of the season and perhaps a glimpse of what was to come in the future from the club.
With two games left to play The Rooks needed just two points to secure fifth place, the best finish in the club’s history and one that would see them finish above established Women’s teams including Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic and Blackburn Rovers. Standing in their way was Leicester City, champions and on a record-breaking run of twelve consecutive wins arriving in Sussex. They had earned their promotion and the Rooks looked on enviously as they formed a guard of honour for the Foxes as they took the field.
Now this was how I imagined doing proper commentary, with those microphones that almost stick to your top lip, a big monitor in front of me and frequent remote controls. With the producer sitting almost next to us, anything we wanted to see again, we could. The stream was going out to over 300 viewers across the world, with main commentator Ben Jacobs providing the audience engagement prompts and me trying to be analytical.
The Rooks certainly hadn’t read the script if it was to be that Leicester would record win number thirteen. The Lewes midfield closed down space quickly, pressing the Leicester plays when in possession. Whilst there hasn’t been much football on the Pan this season, the pitch still suffers when we have dry spells of weather. The surface is hard and doesn’t suit teams who like to play the ball quickly, first time. Lewes, naturally, have become accustomed to that and that played into their favour in the opening quarter. With twenty minutes on the clock a wayward pass across the pitch, caused by such a miss-touch, led to Lucy Ashworth-Clifford picking the ball up and as she entered the area, she was taken down and Lewes had a penalty.
Interestingly, since the turn of the year, the number of penalties Lewes have received has significantly increased, part due to the change in approach to one where the wide players are encouraged to drive into the area, but also with Ini Umatong coming into the side and her strength which leads to centre-backs fouling her. Umatong took the spot kick and the Rooks had the lead.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with Lewes not giving the Foxes much time on the ball, whilst they looked to attack on the break. There were chances at both ends, with Lewes keeper Tatiana Saunders pulling off the save of the game from a close range effort from Natasha Flint. Despite nearly nine minutes of injury time played, the Rooks never looked as if they were hanging on, a strong signpost as to how far the team has come in such a short period.
And so that’s it for another season. The last game of the most surreal campaign we have had here at the Dripping Pan. We all hope and pray that when we get back underway in August it will be in front of fans. Days like these are great but with supporters they become memories.