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Girl striker in top form

PUBLISHED: 11:56 15 May 2008 | UPDATED: 08:58 13 July 2010

Gina Atherton shows no fear.

Gina Atherton shows no fear.

She is fast becoming Norfolk's own version of Bend it Like Beckham star Keira Knightley, and her goal scoring record for the past season puts her in a bracket with such legendary goal snafflers as the Evertonian star Dixie Dean.

She is fast becoming Norfolk's own version of Bend it Like Beckham star Keira Knightley, and her goal scoring record for the past season puts her in a bracket with such legendary goal snafflers as the Evertonian star Dixie Dean.

For Aylsham Town Ladies striker Gina Atherton has found the back of the net an extraordinary 67 times this season, averaging well over two goals per game.

The 19-year-old plays in the Norfolk Women and Girls Football League at ladies 11-a-side level, which features a total of 12 clubs from around the county including Hemsby, Bungay and UEA.

Gina's goals have come from 22 league games and around half-a-dozen cup games, and her feat has been described as “quite extraordinary” by her team manager Ian Walsh.

All the more surprising is the fact that although Gina has played competitive football for at least 10 years, she has played in midfield for most of her career, only taking the role up front a couple of seasons ago.

“I got 20-something goals last year and I'm not absolutely sure what was different this year,” explained Gina.

“I guess that once I got a few goals at the beginning of the season my confidence grew.

“We have a very strong team, so the service throughout the season has been excellent. Generally speaking the goals have come from through balls which I am able to use my speed to run on to.”

Although the team has not heard definitively where they have finished the season, they expect to come in third once other results have been collated. But they have also walked off with silverware thanks to their recent 3-1 cup victory over Wymondham Town, the club which who won the league comfortably (see page 52.)

That match, the final one of their season, was one of a number of highlights for Gina, especially as she scored all of Aylsham's goals.

“The cup final hat-trick and the day I scored my 50th goal of the season are probably the two main highlights,” said Gina, who lives in Hainford.

“A couple of games into the season the manager said to me: 'You will get 50 this season,' and I thought he was saying it jokingly. But it happened and it was a really great moment.

“I never thought 50 was a realistic target to start with, but the manager was right all along!”

Mr Walsh said: “There has been a real team spirit among the girls all season and as a group they have been fantastic.

“It's not all about Gina's goal total, but nevertheless to get 67 goals in a season is amazing, quite extraordinary.

“She is an excellent player, a wonderful finisher and has very skilful feet. To put it in perspective I have been told that the nearest season total among the other players is about half what she got.

“She is not a greedy player at all, she just loves football, the game counts for everything for her and she is completely committed.”

And criticising some perceptions of women's football, Mr Walsh added: “Any man who thinks these girls don't play a good game should just come and watch. You will see a full blooded game.”


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