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Peskett: A Privilege to Give Young Fans a Dream
Saturday, 23rd Mar 2024 19:48 by Kallum Brisset

Town Women winger Sophie Peskett says she feels privileged to provide a platform for young girls to look up to after the Tractor Girls played their first ever league match at Portman Road in front of a divisional record crowd.

Joe Sheehan’s side defeated Chatham Town 5-0 on a historic afternoon for the football club as 10,173 supporters watched the Blues put on a show and inspire a generation.

Peskett, who became the first Tractor Girls player to sign a professional contract in 2021, says it may some take time to sink in and hopes to provide more opportunities to inspire young girls in the future.

“I can’t really get my head around it right now,” she said. “When I wake up tomorrow it will probably feel a bit more real.

“After the game walking round hearing kids scream your name, wanting photos and autographs and saying ‘you’re my favourite player’ or ‘it’s my first game’. It’s so surreal to have that and to have them saying to me they want to play here one day.

“Giving children that kind of dream is something that I didn’t have as much when I was a kid, so to have the opportunity to give that to kids is a really privileged position to be in and I’m really grateful for that.”

Peskett described the feeling of scoring after firing into the bottom corner just after the half-hour, notching her 12th goal of a productive campaign in the process.

She said: “I don’t think I knew what to do, really. I had a couple of celebrations planned in my head and I did the complete opposite to what I thought I would. I think I ended up kissing the badge and I thought ‘you know what, I’ll have that’ – it would be a great picture.

“It was just surreal and it was just an in-the-moment thing, I didn’t want to get too much in my head about scoring because you then end up overthinking it and it doesn’t happen.

“I think I had such a good mindset about being process-driven and focusing on the process before that. When it hit the back of the net I couldn’t believe it to be honest with you.”

On the overall performance, Peskett believed the Tractor Girls improved as the game went on, as the Blues oozed confidence and found three goals in the second half.

“In the first half we started well, then we had a bit of a break when Lucy O’Brien went down [with a head injury] which broke up play a little bit and took the sting out of the game and meant they could settle,” she said.

“When we got a bit tired we just had to settle the game a bit better. But the second half I thought we were braver and controlled possession so much better than we did in the first half.

“I think we focused on the process and the things that we had been working on in training and the fourth goal just shows and epitomises everything that we’ve been working on. To do that on such a big stage, we’re over the moon.”

Peskett also described the feeling as she and her teammates prepared to walk out from the tunnel, adding that it is easy to stay focused during the game and not let the occasion get the better of her.

The 21-year-old said: “It was really surreal if I’m honest. You imagine it in your head and you build it up to be something, but the only word to describe it when you’re actually in it is surreal.

“Walking out and seeing my family on the left hand side was just an unreal moment that I’ll never forget and scoring in front of that many people was a dream come true.

“I’m so happy and so grateful that all of the fans could come together and give us that opportunity because I think we all deserved that.

“I think I was more nervous than usual, but I thought I would be more nervous. To be honest, I’d never played in front of anywhere near that number of people before so I didn’t actually know how I’d react.

“When you’re so focused and in the zone, you shut out outside noise. Of course, there were nerves but I think a little bit of nerves is a good thing and all of us controlled that really well.

“What helped me was that when we came out to warm up, I got a sense that everyone was there to praise us and it was all positive and that really helped. Knowing that they were going to be behind us the whole game just meant it eased the nerves a lot which helped me loads.”

She added: “You definitely feel it [during the game]. A good pass, cross or a shot and you hear the crowd which is really surreal, but I also think when you’re in the zone and focused you don’t really hear as much.

“So as much as it was very different to what we’re used to, in some ways you kind of play the same and you forget it a little bit which is always a positive thing.”

The Tractor Girls usually play their home fixtures at the AGL Arena in Felixstowe, where Town average around 450 spectators.

The change to Portman Road also meant an improvement in the matchday experience and the facilities, which Peskett says helped make the occasion even more memorable.

“It’s a much bigger dressing room than we’re used to,” she said. “Little things like having pre-match at the training ground and getting the coach arriving altogether are the sort of things we’re not used to on a home game.

“It’s made the whole day a lot more special and I’m glad that I got to share that with the whole team.”

In some ways, the day was made for club record goalscorer Natasha Thomas. The striker was the only player to have previously played at Portman Road during a County Cup final in 2019, and scored a goal in either half to add to her ever-growing collection of strikes.

That moved Thomas onto 22 for the season in all competitions and claimed her spot at the summit of the FAWNL Southern Premier Division standings with 17 in the league.

“I thought she was going to square it to me,” Peskett said of Thomas’s opener. “I was thinking ‘shoot, shoot, shoot’! Normally we’ll say to her she’s got to shoot and she did and it was an unbelievable goal. She actually said to me at half-time that she was thinking about Joe telling her to be brave or something like that.

“She was the only one that was ever going to get the first goal and a goal like that and she deserves it, I’m so happy for her.”

Photo: TWTD

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