An emergency call from manager Dan McNamara; a motorway dash to Wolverhampton; a dramatic penalty shoot-out save to help Wolves win a County Cup quarter-final: it was quite a day for teenage goalkeeper Millie Conod.
On the morning of last month’s cup tie against Stourbridge, both of the squad’s senior goalkeepers, Rebecca Thomas and Maddie Elbro, pulled out through injury to leave McNamara with a huge headache just two hours before kick-off.
Meanwhile, Conod was en route to Crewe to turn out for the development team – the youngster’s father driving her up the M6 towards Cheshire. However, a swift about-turn had to be made following the manager’s midday mayday call.
“It was a shock to get the call,” says Conod, “but it was lucky it came when it did. We were just coming up to Junction 15, so a minute later we would have been past the junction and I wouldn’t have been able to get back in time.
“My heart started pumping as we turned around to head back, but dad said “don’t panic, it’s just another game,” and of course it meant I had an hour in the car to settle my nerves and get my focus on playing a first-team match.”
Conod, who joined the club from Aston Villa last summer, had made only two senior appearances before her surprise call-up for the Cup tie. So at least the faces in the Castlecroft dressing room when she arrived were not unfamiliar.
“Macca had held the team talk back until I arrived,” recalls 16-year-old Conod. “But all the players were changed and ready for the warm-up, so as Macca went through the game plan, I was in a corner listening while I changed into my kit.”
A tougher than expected game followed against a Stourbridge team that play two tiers below Wolves in the women’s football pyramid. The visitors went ahead, but a Jade Cross equaliser saw the tie finish at 1-1 and so head into penalties.
Each team scored their first two spot-kicks, but Jamila Palmer then sent hers just over the bar to leave the score at 3-2 to the Glassgirls. No pressure then Millie? “My heart sank a bit when I saw Jam’s shot miss the target,” admits Conod.
“But I kept my nerve,” she adds quickly, “I made good eye contact with the penalty taker to show her my presence and then watched her body language as she started her run-up to take the penalty.
“I went the right way, but once you’ve done that you know you’ve got to make the save. When I felt the ball in my hands and not in the back of the net it was first of all relief, then ‘relax,’ and then pure delight!”
The goalkeeper’s pure delight was shared by her team mates a couple of minutes later, when Shannie Jennings’ successful penalty was followed by a miss from the spot by Stourbridge and victory for Wolves was confirmed.
“I got back-slaps, hugs and even a kiss on the head from someone as we celebrated,” remembers the Handsworth Kings Edwards School for Girls ‘A’ level student. “It was definitely one of the best moments I’ve had playing football.”
Having played a vital role in the quarter-final win, Conod would now, quite understandably, love to play in Sunday’s semi-final against Birmingham & West Midlands here at Castlecroft. But she is not counting on it.
“Of course, I’d love to play,” she says, “but that’s down to the manager, and the most important thing is that we field a team to get us into the final. That would be a big achievement in a big season for us.
“I’m just focused on playing whatever games I’m selected for and gaining valuable experience. I love playing for Wolves, I think the women’s team have got a great future and hopefully I can be part of it.”