The main focus of this month has been preparation for the last stage of the European Championship qualification tournament where we will face two very strong teams, Austria and France.
We began our preparation far north of Norway in Lofoten where we were put through our paces in physical tests, training matches and outdoor activities. There was also a new addition to our team, goalkeeper Jane Mayes from First Division team Tarm Foersom in Denmark.
Only four days later and we are now in Galicia, Spain, taking part in a tournament which includes two groups, the first having three regional Spanish teams and the other, Portugal and ourselves.
Our first game was a friendly against the region Catalonia in which we were victorious 30-25. However we didn’t play our best as there were a little too many technical mistakes made and we were not efficient enough on the counter attack. Both of them key things that we definitely put right for our clash against Portugal.
We beat Portugal 26-18 and it was one of our best performances this year. I was also pleased with my own performance during the match; I played 45 out of 60 minutes and scored three goals.
It was our defence that really shined as we were very compact in the middle which prevented the Portuguese from breaking through. An outstanding display from our new addition Jane Mayes in goal meant that our defence became even stronger as she continued to keep their shots out.
With Ewa Palies back from injury we had more depth and power in our attack something that we had really lacked in the games against Iceland.
Beating Portugal is a big step in the right direction for us. It is a good indication as to how much we have improved in the past year and that we are where we should be. It will also give us the motivation and drive to continue playing and competing with other and better nations at this level.
Our success with Portugal meant that we went on to play in the final of the tournament in Galicia against the Basque region, a stronger team than both our previous opponents. We began with a new tactic which was to play 7 against 6 meaning we replaced our goalkeeper with an outfield player.
This proved initially successful; however as the first half wore on it was clear we were not able to play with the same intensity as we did against Portugal. Our aggressive defence was often penalised by the referees but we still managed to stick with the Basque region only down by one goal at half time.
The second half was much the same as we didn’t convert our chances against their strong goalkeeper. An early red card shown to our captain Lynn McCafferty after 35 minutes also rocked the boat. Another outstanding performance from goalkeeper Jane Mayes kept us in reach of a win.
In the end time wasn’t in our favour as the final whistle went and we went down 24-23. A very close match and good performance from the team just wasn’t good enough. I again scored three times and am pleased with my performance. Despite the loss the team morale is still high and we are looking forward to the busy week ahead!
All in all, great preparation for team GB so far up against different styles of play and a big confidence boost off the back of two poor loses and a disappointing camp against Iceland last month. We will soon make our way to Glasgow where we will compete against Austria and then to Lille where we will meet giant France in the last stage of the European Championship qualification.