March 15, 2018, by brzmjb1
Hockey Heroics as the Ladies team book a place in the BUCS Championship Final
It was 3pm at Portland when the Women’s Hockey team packed their bags and boarded the team coach carrying the hopes and aspirations of playing at a home BUCS Championship final in Nottingham at Beeston Hockey club in a week’s time.
The squad, followed by a travelling group of University of Nottingham supporters, set off on the 55 mile trip down the M42 to UB Sport + Fitness in Bournbrook, where they would unload and prepare for the huge task ahead of them.
The Bournbrook redevelopment has recently been selected to host the hockey competition phase for the 2022 Commonwealth Games with the water-based hockey pitches being chosen for live games between 27th July – 7th August.
Previous results against University of Birmingham (UB) during the BUCS league campaign have been close affairs with a draw in December and UB winning the last encounter by a single goal.
UB Hockey Women’s 1st team currently compete in the EHL Invested National Premier Division and whilst hot favourites to progress to the finals (after going unbeaten against UoN in 2017/18), the strong crowd of Green and Gold supporters could sense that an upset might be on the cards.
Here’s how the teams lined up:
Eloise Stenner (Scholar, GB Elite Development Programme, England U21)
Lottie Ross (Scholar, GB EDP, England U18)
Phoebe Willars (GB EDP)
Saskia Swotland (England U18)
Becky Hutson (C)
Clari Goni (Scholar)
Esme Burge (Scholar, GB EDP, England U21)
Ella Bromley (GB EDP, England U18)
Paige Gillott (Scholar, England U21)
Ali Campos (Scholar)
Sophie Tait (Scholar, England U18)
Charlotte Calnan (Scholar, England U21)
Jess Roe (Wales U23)
A great atmosphere had built as UoN strode out onto the pitch confidently, lined up behind captain Becky Hutson and it was UoN who got the game underway.
UB enjoyed the majority of the possession early on and ran aggressively with the ball from deep in the opening period. With only 5 minutes on the clock it took a great intervention from UoN’s Paige Gillot to break up a UB counter attack and keep the game scoreless.
The early pressure from the hosts resulted in the first penalty corner being awarded to UB but the initial danger was averted following a strong block from Eloise Stenner who raced out and put her body on the line to block low to her right.
The superb spirit in defence throughout the team was characterised by Clari Goni who had to pick herself off the floor after clashing with a UB player in midfield for a 50/50 ball (one of many throughout the course of the evening).
UoN pressed hard in defence and got their rewards when Pheobe Willars picked up some broken play to start a counter attack down the left-hand side which could have resulted in the first goal of the game had it not been for a last-ditch tackle.
Both teams enjoyed chances, but it was Charlotte Calnan who broke the deadlock for the Green and Gold with a wonderful strike from inside right after strong build up play. Calnan drove inside and hit a rasping shot from distance across the stranded UB keeper to make it 0-1.
The goal released a huge amount of tension which had built up and even though it was still early on in the tie, everyone began to sense that this could be a night to remember.
The goal didn’t deflate UB, if anything it spurred them on and what followed was a barrage of chances and had it not been for the brilliance Laura Daglish in net the scores would have been level. After a momentary lapse in concentration from the defence, two UB players found themselves alone in the circle with only the keeper to beat. Incredibly, Daglish threw herself at the feet of both attackers to do just enough to avert the action and keep the score at 0-1.
Moments later it was England U21 midfielder Esme Burge’s turn to act as goalkeeper next. The UoN Scholar was the last line of defence and blocked a penalty corner inches from the line as UoN dug in and held on.
The introduction of Jess Roe calmed things down as UoN looked to keep possession and build from the back. The change had an almost instant impact, as Saskia Swatland picked up the ball and drove downfield almost the full length of the pitch to shift the momentum of the tie.
Goni almost added to the UoN lead as she weaved her way through 3 defenders before being fouled to earn her side a penalty corner. The resulting play was taken by Phoebe Willars and struck well by Eloise Stenner but matched by an excellent save from the UB keeper.
That brought to an end a breathless first-half which was full of drama.
With just a single goal separating the teams UoN knew they’d have they’d have to be at their best to finish on top in the second period.
HT: University of Birmingham 0-1 University of Nottingham
The predominantly Green and Gold crowd (154 total attendance) were silenced early on in the second half as UB put together a much more structured approach to their play.
Whilst enjoying more possession, UB rarely threatened the UoN goal and it was the Green and Gold who had the first shot of the second half when Stenner nearly took a defender’s head off with a vicious long-range strike which unfortunately drew an early penalty.
At this stage of the game the real contest was deep in midfield and when UB tried to construct play from deep UoN pressed hard to win the ball back, with Burge, Bromley and Gillot putting in the hard yards where it mattered.
With 40 minutes gone, Swatland’s trickery nearly created an opening down the right-hand side but it was broken up as she drove towards to the circle and was defended well.
It was a credit to a tenacity of UoN that UB were forced back deep into their own half and whilst Willars was frequently penalised for battles in midfield it meant that the Lions could never find their rhythm.
What happened next in the 43rd minute was a shock to all.
Entirely against the run of play (and in the first meaningful attack of the half) UB levelled the scores by converting a penalty stroke after a deliberate infringement within the circle by UoN. The equaliser coming at time when UB had failed to hold any possession in the final third all half.
Within seconds of the equaliser UB nearly took a shock lead narrowly missing another penalty corner and leaving the scores locked at 1-1.
Lottie Ross was now at the heart of everything UoN were creating, starting things from the back with patience and purpose and it wasn’t long before UoN got the final breakthrough they deserved.
The reaction to the UB equaliser was instant, emphatic and straight off the training pitch. An expertly worked penalty corner was taken by Ross, set up by team captain Huston and dispatched by Burge, who lifted the ball past the sprawling keeper to ensure UoN took the lead once again.
With 15 minutes to go UoN had to defend for their lives and Ali Campos, Jess Roe and Sophie Tait ran themselves into the ground for the cause. Unfortunately, their efforts weren’t helped by 2 yellow cards for Bromley and Willars which put the girls down to 10 players for a full 10 minutes of the second half.
Stretched, UB piled on the pressure and it was Daglish to thank for keeping the score at 1-2. A UB forward broke away, beat Stenner and was clean through 1-on-1 but Daglish was equal to it saving a low effort with her feet in a defining moment of the second half.
There was still time for the fixture to take a final twist.
A counter attack down the left caught UB napping and a cross fizzed across the box was deflected expertly by Holly Dean, who turned to watch her unstoppable strike sail into the top right corner of the net and at 1-3 with 5 minutes to go the game was put to bed.
There was still time for Daglish to make an excellent final save from a UB penalty corner with moments to spare but as the seconds ticked out it was the Green and Gold who progressed to a well-deserved home BUCS Championship Final in Nottingham.
Final Score : University of Birmingham 1-3 University of Nottingham
Speaking after the victory, University of Nottingham Sport, Hockey Head Coach Matt Taylor said, “The girls showed great determination in what was a tight game. We came out strong in the second half and the girls kept their calm when it really mattered. We know we have a tough task ahead in the final but we are looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd against Loughborough on Wednesday.”
BUCS Championship Final – University of Nottingham 1st vs Loughborough 1st,
Wednesday 21st March, Beeston Hockey Club, 14:30pm KO.
Tickets are only £2* and available to book online now via https://fixr.co/event/264556017
*All proceeds from tickets are donated to the Official Charity of BUCS Big Wedensday, Children’s Brain Tumor Research Centre.
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