Football is back! The Gas Girls returned to action this weekend, facing Cwmbran Celtic in a pre-season friendly.
The Girls looked to shake off a few cobwebs to hit the new season with a head-start.
The match started very quickly - Cwmbran looked to assert early pressure in the Rovers half, but a quick transition out of defence and a direct counter-attack led to Abi Hughes playing a one-two off the post and finishing at the second time of asking, putting the girls ahead in the second minute!
The second goal came quickly after, with another move from Rovers going back to front very quickly causing a mix-up with the Cwmbran back line.
A missed touch from the defence gifted Laura Curnock a valuable chance to pick up the loose ball and punish - calmly slotting away into the bottom corner, in the fourth minute.
The quick start led to a controlled period where Rovers kept ahold of the ball and looked to build out from the back.
Cwmbran gained plenty of confidence throughout the first half and capitalised on errors made by Rovers, although the Gas Girls were able to snuff out all chances that were created.
Towards the end of the half, Rovers were on top, moving the ball around and creating plenty of chances, which led to a foul on Laura Curnock for a penalty.
The spot-kick was swiftly converted into the bottom left-hand corner by Abi Todd, leaving the keeper with no chance in the twenty-seventh minute. The half ended with a three-nil advantage to the Rovers.
Five substitutions were made before the second half, which saw Ella Langdon, Megan Bloomer, Helena Costa and two trialists get some minutes in the legs and get in on the action.
However, Cwmbran came firing out, capitalising on a few mistakes made by the Gas Girls - two goals in two minutes gave the away side a wake-up call.
Rovers were knocked by the reignition of Cwmbran, but normal play resumed and efficient build-up play led to possession being held and opportunities created.
A Trialist worked her way into a good position just out of the opposition box, being fouled in the process, with a free kick in a dangerous area being awarded to the visitors.
Anyone being on trial for a club would be slightly nervous to step up and take the free kick, but the trialist proved the opposite!
She stepped up to take the free kick, rocketing the ball against the crossbar which rebounded into the net. What an introduction!
A sense of calm was spread throughout the squad after going 4-2 up, as Rovers looked to extend their lead.
Well-worked play from Leah Douglas on the right caused issues for the Cwmbran defence, as she threaded through another trialist who served another goal for Laura Curnock up on a plate.
The whipped ball was met by the head of Curnock, who headed home for her second goal of the afternoon.
Fatigue hit the legs late on and after a spell of well-maintained possession, the Rovers defence conceded a penalty in the eighty-third minute, which was easily converted by Cwmbran, with the final whistle blown not long after.
Here's what manager Nathan Hallett-Young had to say after the match:
"I thought we maintained excellent control of the ball in the first half. Our transitions and counterattacking looked deadly in the opening five to ten minutes.
"It was amazing to see the ruthlessness in those opening moments - we had three shots on goal in the first five minutes, and two of them ended up in the back of the net! It was a perfect start for us.
"As it is a pre-season game, we are trying to get the minutes in, build some structure and get the team gelling. There were some trialists and development players in there today, with loads of positives to take from.
"I was impressed by the trialists who stepped up and proved they are more than capable of being in this team.
" Laura Curnock was superb today, scoring twice, she looks like a real threat going forward, and the same for Abi Hughes on the left-hand side.
"Second half we did slow down slightly and did concede some goals which were a little sloppy, but it will be something that will be weeded out as we start to gel as a team.
"We were tested by a good side, and I wish Cwmbran all the luck towards the start of the season."
Laura Curnock had an amazing start to pre-season - scoring two well taken goals. Here's what she had to stay after the game:
"It was really important for us that we started our pre-season games with a win, as we look to build on our momentum to carry into the upcoming season.
"For myself, it was nice to get back on the scoresheet to help the team get across the line.
"Minutes added to the tank, with new faces starting to click with each other, we have lots to build on going into the next few pre-season games!"
The Gas Girls move forward to next weekend where they will play Bath City at Lockleaze Sports Centre.