Buckingham 0 Surbiton 3
Challenge for a European Place Ends In Semi-Final Loss
Last Saturday, on a historic day for Buckingham Hockey Club, the side travelled to the Lee Valley Hockey centre in Olympic Park to contest the top four playoffs for the first time ever.
In their semi-final they were drawn against Surbiton the number one side, a side brimming with Great Britain and England internationals as well as boasting a number of Rio gold medallists and who were going for their fifth successive title.
Having beaten them with last minute goals both home and away during the regular league season, Buckingham were fully aware that their opposition would be highly motivated for this encounter and expected nothing less than their toughest game of the season. It was Surbiton who started slightly the brighter but neither side were able to create any clear openings in the first ten minutes. However, Surbiton took the lead when gold medallist Giselle Ainsley fired in a trademark drag flick from their first penalty corner to give them the lead in the opening quarter. Buckingham immediately went on the offensive and won a penalty corner of their own. Captain Zoe Shipperley fired the ball home but unfortunately the initial strike was too high, so the score remained 1-0 at the end of a tight first quarter.
Buckingham started the second quarter well when Surbiton were temporarily reduced to ten players, but despite creating one good half chance, they could not make the most of the one player advantage and Surbiton were the side in the ascendency for the remainder of the second quarter. Despite this, they only created a couple of half chances, as Buckingham defended a couple of penalty corners well at the end of period. In truth, neither side was able to carve out any real, clear cut openings and the score remained 1-0 at the half time break.
Buckingham came out with renewed vigour in the second half and the third quarter was a very even and hotly contested affair with no real chances at either end. Although, Jackson was called into action to make a save from Surbiton's fourth penalty corner in the in the final seconds of the period.
She was called into action again right at the start of the fourth quarter, when she made a sharp save from a penalty corner rebound to deny Ainsley. With Katrina Nicholson now driving forward, Buckingham finally looked more threatening as they pushed on in search of the equaliser. However, as they pushed forward, they conceded a soft penalty corner with five minutes remaining and Olympic Gold Medallist Holly Pearne-Webb crashed the ball home to all but seal Surbiton's place in the final. Buckingham immediately withdrew their goalkeeper in favour of a kicking back in a last ditch attempt to force a draw but despite some sustained pressure, a swift counter attack resulted in a third goal for Surbiton with under two minutes left, to make the final score 3-0.
“Of course it is a disappointing to lose a semi-final but more frustratingly, I felt we didn’t really put our game out there until late in the fourth quarter. We looked a bit tentative and probably gave them a bit too much respect. We didn't go forward or attack them enough and made few too many basic errors with our ball handling to beat a side of that quality. Despite it not being our best performance, we competed really well. We were in it right until the last five minutes but all credit to Surbiton as, ultimately we were beaten by the better side on the day. However, Saturday should not detract from what has been an incredible season. When the girls look back and reflect on the season, they should be incredibly proud of what they achieved, especially given the size of our club and its resources. Division 1 indoor champions, a cup semi final and a league semi final in our first season back in the top flight is decent return and also pretty amazing. I cannot fault the commitment effort and intent shown throughout the course of the season and we proved we can play some really good hockey and compete with the very best in the country. I am sure we will come back stronger and better form this experience. It will have given the girls the belief that they belong at this level and hopefully that desire to go back for more next year, having got a taste for it."