Source: Simon Parker

Investec Women’s Finals Weekend – Championship Play-Offs

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Investec Women’s Finals Weekend – Championship Play-Offs

Surbiton and Canterbury set-up a repeat of last year’s Championship Final with respective wins over Reading and Clifton at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre this afternoon. Neither side booked their place in the final with ease however, as Reading took Surbiton to a shoot-out in the first semi final after the game had finished 2-2 in normal time and Canterbury managed to withstand a torrent of pressure from Clifton in the closing stages of their game to seal a 2-1 win.

Surbiton celebrate after winning the penalty shuttles 4-2

Source: Ravi Ghowry

Click here to watch all the interviews from day one of the Investec Women’s Finals Weekend.

Semi Final 1

SURBITON 2 (2)
Julia King 7 (PS)
Sandra Frankland 12 (FG)

READING 2 (0)

Helen Richardson-Walsh 41, 61 (PC, FG)

 Surbiton win 4-2 in shoot-out.

Click here for all the scorers, stats and results from today’s semi finals.

Full Match Report:

Surbiton remained on course to defend their title after a dramatic shootout win over Reading at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. Goals from Julia King and Sandra Frankland had looked set to see them through in normal time but a superb second half display by the Sonning Lane side, who hit back with a brace from Helen Richardson-Walsh took the game to shootout.

Surbiton took the lead on six minutes. A diagonal ball into the circle caused problems and after a stick tackle a penalty stroke was awarded. Julia King stepped up and found the roof of the net with a bullet flick to give her side the lead.

Both sides won penalty corners but Kate Richardson-Walsh was kept out by the defensive runner. Surbiton doubled their lead shortly afterwards. A penalty corner was not properly cleared and the ball was worked back in allowing Sandra Frankland to tap in and make it 2-0.

King drew a good save out of Sarah Ellis from a well hit penalty corner and Charlotte Calnan was agonizingly close to adding another but as the second quarter began Reading worked their way back into the game with Helen Richardson-Walsh growing in influence.

After a good spell of pressure the Sonning Lane side forced two penalty corners in quick succession but Abi Walker was equal to the task saving well from Leah Wilkinson and then Kate Richardson-Walsh to preserve her team’s lead at the break.

Reading had the better of the third quarter as they fought hard to find a way back into the match. Surbiton forced a couple of penalty corners but Hollie Webb’s shots were both saved by Ellis.

Susie Gilbert and Helen Richardson-Walsh continued to ask questions of the Surbiton defence as the pressure mounted. With four minutes gone in the quarter Kate Richardson-Walsh’s pass from a penalty corner was deflected in by a diving Helen Richardson-Walsh bringing their side back into the contest. Although they enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession they were unable to capitalise and went into the final quarter trailing.

Reading continued to knock at the door throughout the final quarter and with nine minutes to go they got their reward. A good driving run by Abi Harper down the right set up Ashlie Caddick and with Surbiton failing to clear their lines, Helen Richardson-Walsh swooped in to score her second and level the match.

Sarah Haycroft’s invention set up Page but her effort flashed wide and then Calnan’s piledriver was deflected over the bar as Reading survived a late Surbiton rally to take the game to a shootout.

Georgie Twigg, Emily Maguire and Haycroft all scored from their efforts but Gilbert was timed out. Ellis then saved from Harriet Tibble to keep it at 2-1 before Helen Richardson-Walsh levelled it up. Abi Robinson scored and then Walker denied Emma Thomas before King calmly rounded the goalkeeper to win it for Surbiton and send them into the final.

Surbiton goalkeeper Abi Walker told England Hockey afterwards: “The game was a credit to both teams really, it was a real spectacle. We were very pleased with our performance in the first half, and then we dropped off, but that’s credit to Reading, they’re a team that never know when to lie down.” she added “We’ve had a bit of a curse at the shootout, we lost in the playoffs two years ago, and then we lost in Europe recently, so I felt like today I had much more of a plan. As soon as the final whistle went, I felt really confident we would win.”

Helen Richardson-Walsh was disappointed, but proud saying: “It’s disappointing to lose in a shootout today, especially as we went 2-0 down – and we weren’t looking in it at all – so to come back and take it to a shootout was credit to the team, the hard work that we put in throughout the game, and disappointing to not win in the end. Abi Walker is a quality goalkeeper and she proved that at the end.”

Surbiton await the winner of Canterbury and Clifton for the final whilst Reading will play off for 3rd/4th place, both games tomorrow.

Semi Final 2

CANTERBURY 2 (2)

Jen Wilson 21 (PC)

Nikki Lloyd 21 (FG)

CLIFTON 1 (1)

Claire Thomas 27 (FG)

Canterbury set up a repeat of last year’s final with Surbiton as they edged past Clifton in an exciting game which finished 2-1 to the Kent side. Goals from Player-Coach Jen Wilson and a second from Nikki Lloyd did the damage, though Claire Thomas’s reply ensured it was far from comfortable.

Click here for all the scorers, stats and results from today’s semi finals.

The game started at a high pace as both sides worked hard to get their noses in front. Canterbury forced the first penalty corner of the match but Grace Balsdon’s low drag flick was well saved by Caitlin Jeffries diving to her right.

The second quarter was also fairly even but Canterbury turned the game on its head in the space of a couple of minutes. Wilson guided the ball home from a well-worked penalty corner and then Susannah Townsend left defenders trailing in her wake with a searing burst of pace before firing the ball across for Lloyd to apply the finish.

Clifton almost grabbed an equaliser but Harriet Pearce’s bullet penalty corner was brilliantly saved by Helen Fagg in the Canterbury goal. With nine minutes on the clock till the break Clifton halved the deficit as Thomas forced the ball over the line from close range, leaving it all to play for in the second half.

The third quarter was a little on the frantic side as both sides knew the importance of the next goal. Fagg excelled herself pulling off two excellent penalty corner saves to deny Pearce and Els Mansell before Joie Leigh’s superb cross fizzed past the far post with three Clifton players diving in for a touch that just eluded them. Leigh did well on the stroke of quarter time to engineer some space but once again Fagg did well, plunging to her right to get a strong glove on the ball to keep her team’s noses in front.

With three minutes gone in the quarter Canterbury had a penalty corner of their own. Mel Clewlow hit a trademark thunderbolt but Jeffries did well to smother the shot.

As legs tired, the pace of Eliza Brett became more of a threat. The No8 showed the defence a clean pair of heels only for Jeffries to dash from her line to make another important intervention. With five minutes left on the clock Clifton won another penalty corner. The crowd fell silent as they lined up and then there was a roar from the Canterbury fans as Aileen Davis’ deflected effort was blocked by Fagg in the Kent side’s goal. Clifton threw everything at their opponents and on full time they had one last chance, again from a penalty corner. Clifton had everyone up but Canterbury’s defence did the job and they held on for the win.

Canterbury’s Susannah Townsend told England Hockey afterwards: “It wasn’t pretty. We had our game plan, which was built around the pace we have in the team and we managed to get the two goals in the second quarter, but credit to Clifton they came back at us and we had to hang on for the win. It wasn’t our best performance, but I think it’s the sign of a good team to get the result when we’ve not played our best.”

Clifton Captain Aileen Davis couldn’t hide her disappointment after her side’s defeat: “We came out and put a really solid performance together. The last quarter in particular we were all over them [Canterbury], but unfortunately we got a goal disallowed and had a few chances we didn’t manage to convert and that meant we didn’t get the result we wanted today.”

Canterbury will now face title holders Surbiton in tomorrow’s final, whilst Clifton will have to pick themselves up to face Reading in the 3rd-4th place playoff. You can still buy tickets to the final day of the Investec Women’s Finals weekend. They are available until midnight online, or on the gate on Sunday.

Investec Women’s Finals Weekend – Championship Play-Offs

Sunday 19 April – Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre

3rd/4th Play-Off: Reading v Clifton – 13:00 start

Final: Surbiton v Canterbury – 15:15 start