The sun was shining and spring had sprung in Bournemouth for the EH West Cluster regional matches. Four teams battled it out over 3 matches of 30min each (2x15min halves) for a single space available to the tournament winners to participate in the England Hockey Under 14 Girls National Championships at Lee Valley on the 14th May...
The squad this week had 15 players:
Raph, Sophie.T, Floss, Esta, Emma.H, Heather, Cecily, Jazz, Mattie, Eliza, Iggy, Ariane, Sascha, Emma S and Alice.
The warm up was going nicely, the girls away on school trips and vacation sent messages of support including a motivation video RAP. The coaches were relaxed, everything was set and what could possibly go wrong. Three minutes before the first pushback, Emma started feeling unwell, luckily we have a resident doctor who went straight to work helping sort this out. With 1 minute to go Mattie's nose started to bleed. Two of our starting eleven out of sorts last minute meant a last minute change - but our strength in depth was with us.
Guildford v Clifton Robinsons 1-1 draw
The beauty of the Tier 2 competition is that you usually don't know what the opposition will be like - one has to plan and think that every game is a final. The game started with Guildford understandibly on the back foot with the last minute changes to the line-up. We needed to make some in-play changes to the formation to get things back on track. Clifton were a well drilled team, using the width well and they had a strong start (we did not).
The Guildford team has many qualities, not least of which our defensive structure and this was heavily tested in the first five minutes of the match. It held firm. As the midfield players settle in, we started to pressure the Clifton D with 4 or 5 phases of penetration. Jazz scored with about 3 minutes of the first half to go, 1-0 to Guildford.
The second half was reasonably even. Raph in goal had a few regulation saves to make and things looked stable. With 5 minutes to go Clifton were awared a short corner that turned into 5 on the run. On the last corner Clifton managed to get a shot away on target. It wasn't hit cleanly and bounced awkwardly just before Raph's diving right arm and spun into the goal. 1-1. With an uncomfortable final 2 minuties after Esta was green carded for a stick tackle, the final score was a 1-1 draw.
Plymouth Marjon v Guildford 1-0 win
Mattie's nose was no longer bleeding but Cecily was now feeling unwell and couldn't start. Emma's sickness had deteriorated. It was turning into an episode of casualty and our resident doctor was working hard for the team. We checked and this is none of this was listed in the coaches manual! All the same, Guildford started strongly and dominated play. Plymouth were a good side who were put under immense pressure defensively from wave after wave of Guildford advances toward their D. Mattie opened the scoring to give Guildford a 1-0 lead at half time. The second half matched the first with Guildford dominating play but Plymouth looking very dangerous on the break with some seriously quick forwards. The game ended 1-0 to Guildford. With a draw in the other match between Bournemouth and Clifton it meant 3 teams could in theory still win, but Guildford held the box seat if we beat the home team Bournemouth in the final round of matches.
Bournemouth vs Guildford 2-0 win
Mattie's nose was fully bonded, Cecily was feeling back to fitness and Emma had now made a miraculous recovery to start the game. Our resident doctor Mr Woods had done the team proud. We now reverted back to the coaches plan A and had no dilemma's to deal with for the last match of the day. The weather had been quite warm and the intensity of competition play had been fierce, but our girls had stayed hydrated and had a focus on the prize.
Guildford dominated the play in the first half. Bournemouth have a strong defensive structure and a good keeper that kept us at bay and the half ended 0-0 despite many D penetrations. The score on the other pitch meant Guildford or Bournemouth would not progress if scores remained the same. The second half matched much of the first with Guildford dominating the play. Guildford not only have a resident doctor to keep the team going but a real life BBC commentator amongst his other amazing sporting achievements. Guildford's first goal had the full commentary works booming across the pitch. Fifteen seconds before the goal the tone intensity increased and when it was his daughter Cecily who scored from what was a lovely clean strike at the edge of the D to the far post I'm sure I heard the commentary voice wobble to the same tone when Pinsent and Redgrave won their last Gold. Magic moments.
Bournemouth then had to change things and pushed more players forward. Our defensive structure held firm and with Bournemouth committing more players forward we had a few gaps to exploit. This enabled Mattie space to have a lovely drive into the D and a cool finish around the keeper. The game ended 0-2 to Guildford. Well done, girls.
So, Guildford came out winners of the pool and look forward to a weekend in London and playing at the Olympic Park in May. The matches were played with great spirit, the hosts and facilities were excellent. The team spirt is super with the girls and over the day they deserved to progress.
Anthony & David