In our final catch up this season with Wroxham Women’s Harriet Meers, who Impetus are proud to sponsor, Ben Gilby finds out how the defender got on in her first matches for the club over the past month or so.
It’s been a rollacoaster ride of a season for 21 year-old Wroxham defender Harriet Meers. She signed for the club in December just before the country went into lockdown again (see Wroxham Prepare to Return To Action and Harriet Meers: Lots To Look Forward To in 2021) which meant it would be three months before she would have an opportunity to train and then play for her new team.
Finally, the club were in a position to play their first game post lockdown in the Eastern Regional League Challenge Cup group stage tie against Cambridge City Development on 11th April – a game that would see Harriet make her debut.
“It was nerve-wracking!” Harriet reveals, “I definitely didn’t expect to start the game. I thought I might get a few minutes, but didn’t think I’d get the full ninety! It was a tough game, none of us had played for such a long time. I’d never played for the team before, I’d also never played at that level before. So, going into the game we thought it would be a tough one and I do think that on another day the score line would have been very different and gone in our favour.
With their second group tie away to AFC Dunstable the following weekend, Harriet took us through how the team went about putting things right ahead of that match.
“We were disappointed after the Cambridge loss and Bex (Burton, head coach) put on an analysis session in the build-up. We looked through the key plays from the game, what we did and what we could have done differently. That was really helpful for me as I hadn’t played alongside the other defenders before, so it was good to be shown who does what, where and when. So, for example I was going to play more as a sweeper and the centre back I played alongside was going to attack the ball. That analysis session then got put into practice on the Wednesday and Friday at training and when it came to the game itself, we smashed it.”
That game saw Harriet retain her starting position at the heart of the Wroxham defence.
“We were really powerful from the whistle. We were relentless and chased down every ball. Everyone put a stint in and it was a game that left everyone feeling really good afterwards. Everyone was buzzing and it was nice to have drinks after the game as a group as it almost made you think that the last few months of lockdowns hadn’t really happened!”
With Wroxham’s Eastern Regional League Challenge Cup games behind them, attention then moved to the Norfolk Cup with the Yachtswomen drawn against Mulbarton Wanderers, two leagues below them in the Quarter-Finals.
“That was a tough game on the day and a frustrating one for us all. What we tried to do wasn’t working. We didn’t play at our best, we didn’t play to the standard that we’d been trained to do. We win and lose together as a team. We all left feeling pretty miserable, but we know what that feels like now and don’t want to feel like that again, and that’s important.”
Whilst the results may not have gone the way Wroxham would have wanted across the three games, these were the highest level matches that Harriet had ever played in during her short footballing career.
“The first game was really difficult. I didn’t expect to start it. I was driving to the game in the morning and saw the team sheet released and thought ‘Oh God!’ I was very nervous and played very nervously for pretty much the whole game. It was hard not really know what to do in certain situations. It was tricky. But the analysis session we had afterwards – I can’t say enough how much that helped and I focused on what Bex wanted from me.
“The second game against Dunstable, I definitely improved. The things I had to work on was to create angles, looking at playing out from the back and not shying away from the ball and getting confidence on the ball. Getting the win also boosted the confidence.
“I definitely think that as a player I am improving already. I’ve only had three games, but when the confidence comes I think I can only get better. The opposition is a lot tougher, but it’s also more exciting. It’s nice to go into a game and not know what’s going to happen.”
Harriet’s season didn’t end with the Norfolk Cup tie against Mulbarton Wanderers as she’s been back in the University of East Anglia (UEA) team for their recent games against Wymondham Town (who are in Wroxham’s tier five division) and Norwich City CSF.
“The games with UEA have actually been harder because I had got used to the players around me at Wroxham and what they want and then I was back at UEA where we hadn’t played together for ages. The team has lost a lot of players who were doing this semester from home due to Covid.
“We had two games, against Norwich City CSF which we won and Wymondham who beat us. I actually enjoyed the Wymondham game more because it was a challenge. You have to gel as a team though. UEA have so many individually brilliant players but they’ve got to work together. Next season if things return to normal, we can gel again and improve.”
Playing at tier five for Wroxham and at BUCS level for UEA means that Harriet has a very busy training and playing schedule on top of her Biomedicine studies. She gave an insight into what the physical demands are like.
“It is tough. There’s two training sessions a week for Wroxham and up to three with UEA plus games. Physically, as a defender, my legs are always bruised. It’s great though. I wouldn’t change it. I miss it so much already now the season is over.
“Wroxham ended after the Mulbarton game and there’s nothing I want to do more than go back and start training there again. I can’t wait to get back.
“I’ve got a few exams at the moment that I need to get out of the way. I need to maintain my fitness and improve it if I can. I want to work on ball skill and that will improve me so much when we come back.
“I just want to carry on with Wroxham and get a good season with no cancellations!”
That is a sentiment that we all echo. It’s been great following Harriet’s first steps as a tier five footballer and we look forward to following Wroxham’s progress again next season.