England Hockey U18 Championship-2nd Round

Southgate U18 Girls 3 Spencer U18 Damselflies 1

report by Jim Sherring

This was a cracking match between two strong sides which provided a great deal of entertainment and no little tension to a good home crowd. Spencer provided one of the toughest matches last season during the U18 Girls successful Championship run and once again they provided a stern test. This was the first time in two years that the U18 Girls had enjoyed home advantage in the Championship and he home support was important as they had to come from behind to clinch a place in the third round at Bedford next week.

Aerial attack from Tabs Collier – DSC06015 Jo Price
Tenacious tackling from both sides – DSC06016 Jo Price

Uncharacteristically sloppy passing gifted the early initiative to Spencer but the game was turning Southgate’s way when a long crash ball down the middle of the pitch caught us out and Ursula Hall finished with power to give Spencer the lead midway through the first half. Things could have got worse when we were down to 10 players for 5 minutes with a yellow card incident and Chaela was forced into a couple of very good saves. As the half drew to a close we started to turn the tide and a smart short corner routine drew us level as an exchange of passes in the D led to a smart finish by Freya to level the game up.

Determined defence from Southgate – DSC06018 Jo Price
Hermione Kay driving out from the defence – DSC06020 Jo Price

With the score 1-1 at half time, and Grant changed the shape to deal with the direct style of Spencer. After an early scare in the second half the change information started to have an effect and allowed our midfield to get a hold of the game more and get the best from our attacking players . The creativity of the team lifted a notch and we were moving the ball quickly and catching the Spencer defence out. Several chances came and went before Sofia (suffering with a nose bleed) decided to take a hand. After a short corner had been cleared out to the right the ball was played into Sofia on the edge of the D and she danced around half-a-dozen tackles in a very congested D before slipping the ball home to give us the lead.

Attempt on goal from a Southgate corner – DSC06023 Jo Price
Sofia Martin leading the Southgate defence – DSC06026 Jo Price
Spencer defender making the clearance – DSC06029 Jo Price

Spencer pushed forward pressing us high but it opened them to the counter attack and we had several chances to extend the lead, one when Grace Kumar rounded the keeper and from a tight angle rolled the ball across the line where Freya was just beaten to the touch and we were somehow denied. The next time Grace got in that position she took an extra touch before flicking the ball past the despairing efforts on the visitors defenders. 3-1 and at last some breathing space. Despite Spencer’s best efforts the girls played the game out professionally, holding the ball well, and advanced into the 3rd round next week still on course to retain the trophy.

Southgate corner Sofia Martin waits to trap ball – DSC06031 Jo Price
Final Southgate goal – DSC06041 Jo Price
Elation and relief as the final goal seals the game for the home side – DSC06042 Jo Price