National U18 Championship

Southgate U18G 2 Harleston Magpies U18G 3

All good things come to an end and the U18 Girls suffered their first defeat in 2 ½ years to exit the National Championship at the quarter final stage. They didn’t give it up easily though, and Harleston Magpies had to wrench it from their hands in an excellent game on Saturday. The first half was going pretty much to plan with Southgate the dominant team, but we failed to turn that dominance into goals. Too often having made the incision into the D we were wasteful rather than clinical, and to score only once at a point where we were clearly the superior side was disappointing. The goal owed much to planning and practice as a slip corner routine worked perfectly with Hannah and Ella combining before Scarlett popped the ball in from close range. Magpies had rarely threatened at all in the half but with seconds remaining they broke down the right and an exchange of passes in the D presented a simple opportunity to equalise which they didn’t miss. There was no time for a restart so we were all square at the break.

DSC06351 Southgate goal – Jo Price
DSC06352 On the attack Maddie Axford – Jo Price

Gee’d up and with the Captain, Hannah, driving the team on, the girls again took control of the game as the second half began. The first significant action came as we forced several short corners, the final one Hannah went for the top corner hitting the bar with the ball coming down perhaps over the line, certainly my eye thought it might have but it was impossible to tell really and with no Russian Linesman to come to our aid the scores remained level.  With Maddie often in full flight carrying the ball into the 23 on the right and Ella controlling the left we again created some great chances and it was no surprise when Grace K worked some space in the D and with her signature pirouette placed the ball just past the despairing keeper to give us the lead again. At 2-1 there really only seemed one winner there were chances to kill the game. One in particular came when player of the match Hannah launched an arial over the Magpies press  for Ella to outpace the Magpies defence before slipping it to Scarlett who was denied by the excellent visitors keeper.

DSC06357 On the ball Scarlet Spavin – Jo Price
DSC06370 Holly Dench looking to create an attack – Jo Price

With nothing to lose the Visitors pressed us much higher and it paid dividends when they managed to equalise with 15 minutes remaining. Worse was to follow just 2 minutes later when they pressed again and we couldn’t find a route out allowing Magpies to take the lead.

DSC06374 Double defence from Southgate. – Jo Price
DSC06377 Group huddle after narrow defeat. – Jo Price

The girls tried to find an equaliser to take the game to flicks but this Magpies team are very experienced and their game management in the final 15 minutes was exemplary. The effort all round from the team could not be faulted, it should be noted that both Scarlett and Grace K raced back from their England game at Bisham to play pretty much a full part in the match and both put in incredible efforts to help the team showing their outstanding commitment. Sophia W and Deborah stepped up from the U16’s to provide cover for missing players and both looked very comfortable in an intense and highly competitive match. Hannah was outstanding leading her team almost to standstill being forced off with minutes remaining suffering from cramp. Finally, a word on England Hockey who’s scheduling cost us two key players at the Quarter Final stage. The Championship is devalued if you cannot play your full team with the best players and they learn and develop far more by playing games like this one. It is also extremely unfair on the players themselves.