The U18 Girls made the trip through Storm Dennis to South London for the last 16 ECB Championship game with Surbiton. John Donne once remarked that ‘no man is an Island’ however the Surbiton Clubhouse looked like one as it was surrounded by water, but Southgate’s U18 girls weren’t put off by this and were intent on storming this stronghold of Junior hockey. This was the scene of a heart-breaking shoot out defeat in last season’s Championship for the 18’s but the team was in no mood for a repeat. Both teams were more or less at full strength boasting junior internationals everywhere, and this promised to be a humdinger of a contest. The weather was truly appalling and the pitch barely playable with a strip of standing water on the far side of one half. Unlike golf there was no ‘free drop’ and it made for some tricky moments for both teams and quite a bit of splashing!
There was a determined look in the eye of several of the girls as they stepped on to the pitch which proved as infectious as Covid-19 and spread across all the Southgate players. From the first minute Southgate took the game to Surbiton putting pressure on the home defence, with predatory forward line of Maddie, Gabby MP and Lucy Leal all having efforts on goal. Surbiton were finding it difficult to clear their lines as every time they did get into midfield Hannah, Ella and Gabby Greenwood were waiting to pounce. With chances going begging it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened…Surbiton broke away and scored! Having spent 15 minutes knocking on the Surbiton door we perhaps were over-committed and that was a dangerous tactic with the huge quality in the Surbiton side. A fast break down the left gave the home side numbers in the box and a fine finish left Zara no chance.
Surbiton 1 Southgate 0
The home crowd were buoyant but we had travelled with good support and the volume rose from those in red and black (perhaps somewhat over-zealous at times, hush Jim, sorry Louise). The pattern of the game was established as Southgate pressure, Surbiton break. The team forced several short corners only to be denied by committed defence and top class goal-keeping. Maddie had several driving runs into the D only to be thwarted by last ditch tackling and the ball fizzed around the Surbiton area with the final touch frustratingly out of reach. On the right hand-side the water was playing havoc with the team trying to move the ball fast and both Ella and Georgie performed wonders in keeping possession when the ball was in there.
Surbiton were very pacey on the break but when the did get past the Southgate front 6 Robyn, Sofia and Alice were in outstanding form at the back aided particularly by Hermione. Dangerous runs were channelled expertly by Robyn into corners and Alice, Hermione, and Sofia kept picking the ball out from under Surbiton noses and distributing with care.
With time running out in the first half Hannah picked up the ball in the 25 and drove into the D slamming an unstoppable shot from the right-hand side across the keeper into the corner of the net to level things up. It was a high-class goal and one we have seen from Hannah before this season. It exemplified the steely determination across the team and individual responsibility; no-one was hiding, there were options making it easier to keep possession, and the attacking players were willing to take on Surbiton in the right areas.
Surbiton 1 Southgate 1
More Southgate pressure before half time went unrewarded. Georgie took a nasty bang to the head and had to come off, but Jemima and Liberty were now providing Robyn support in protecting the back line. Zara had to make one very smart save as Surbiton reminded us of their threat and then reacted first to scramble to ball away. This was a vital intervention from our keeper as had Surbiton taken the lead before half time it could have been a significant shift in momentum. As it was Grant was able to use his half time team talk to focus on the dominance we had displayed and urge the girls on to deliver the same again in the second half.
If anything the second half performance was even better. We retained possession for longer periods and created more chances with the home goalkeeper and defence performing miracles to keep the team at bay. Lucy, Ella, Hannah and Maddie in particular were running at the home defence creating chance after chance. One whipped cross only just evaded Gabby MP as she tried desperately to get her stick on the ball. A succession of short corners put huge pressure on Surbiton and on the 4th or maybe 5th in a short space of time Maddie decided it was time to simplify things. Gabby Greenwood injected with pace, the ball was stopped, and Maddie drilled it low into the left-hand corner, unstoppable!
Surbiton 1 Southgate 2
Surbiton roused themselves and threw players forward. Robyn was outstanding in channelling the international forward away from goal and danger on more than one occasion. But the midfield of Southgate restored control quickly with Sofia showing all her class in winning possession time and again and finding our wide players to go and pressure Surbiton again. From once such move Ella cut into the D past 2 opponents and found Hannah whose control was instant; she shifted the ball to Maddie who tried some 3D skills and with ball a foot off the ground reverse hit it past the astonished keeper and into the net. It was an outrageous goal!
Surbiton 1 Southgate 3
Now it was all about seeing the game out and keeping possession which the Girls did expertly. Laura and Gabby G held the ball down the lines, Sofia controlled the midfield, Robyn and Alice won everything at the back, Zara seemed to be getting cold! Further chances were created and somehow the Surbiton goal survived. When the final whistle went there wasn’t huge celebrations as the team have too much respect for Surbiton and this was only the last 16 after all. The girls, and coaches, were by this stage completely drenched and everyone headed for the clubhouse and the warmth.
This was a very special performance by the team but they know they will need to repeat it to progress in the competition. There are still some very fine U18 teams remaining in the competition but Surbiton away is probably the most daunting fixture and the team passed this test in real style.
Team: Zara Rose: Robyn Hodges, Alice Broderick, Georgie Shrimpton, Sofia Martin, Hermione Kaye, Ella Sherring, Hannah Kilpatrick, Gabby Greenwood, Maddie Axford, Gabby Murray-Panayiotou, Lucy Leel, Laura Ellis, Jemima Bisseker, Liberty Dicken