Buckingham 4 University of Birmingham 5
By Zak Jones
Buckingham Lose Out Narrowly in Nine Goal Thriller
Buckingham's last home game of the season proved to be an incredible and highly entertaining game of hockey. With the visitors side containing four current Great Britain internationals but desperate for points to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle and Buckingham determined to claim a top four spot, it was always going to be an intense and highly charged game. Both sides started well, playing with real attacking intent and high intensity. In a frantic opening, Buckingham created a couple of early chances but it was the visitors who took the lead from their first attack. Olympic Gold Medalist Lily Owsley opening the scoring with a smart finish after just six minutes. The visitors extended their lead on ten minutes when a cheap turnover and swift counter attack led to a penalty stroke, which was calmly dispatched for 2-0. The game continued to be frenetic and flow from end-to-end, with Buckingham creating chances but being unable to take any to reduce the deficit and it was the visitors who scored again following some sloppy defending. The home side responded by earning two penalty corners but they were unable to convert either and it was the visitors who struck again. More sloppy defending resulted in the visitors fourth goal inside nineteen minutes, leaving Buckingham with a mountain to climb. Buckingham's response was immediate and they created a fantastic chance right from the restart but once again, could not convert. However, they did reduce the deficit on twenty-three minutes when Tash James smartly finished a Phoebe Richards cross to make the score 4-1. Buckingham came close from another couple of penalty corners, including one deflection from Kitty Higgins that whistled just wide of the post and also missed a one-on-one opportunity, all before the thirty minute mark. However, the half was not quite over. Some brilliant pressing resulted in Buckingham winning the ball high up the pitch and Maddy Newlyn found Richard's who finished well, to take the score to 4-2 just two minutes before the break.
Buckingham started the second half well, enjoyed a period of pressure and earned another penalty corner after five minutes but it too went unconverted. The game was still being played at a very high pace but it was not quite as frenetic as the first half. Buckingham continued to carve out openings. Newlyn forcing a fine save from the visitors goal keeper after eleven minutes before another corner was well blocked . On eighteen minutes Buckingham earned their seventh penalty corner and although the initial shot was saved, sixteen year old Millie home forced the ball home for her first ever Investec Premier League goal to bring the score back to 4-3. James came close to bringing the scores level when her lob flew just over the bar on twenty-three minutes. However, Buckingham were back on level terms just a minute later when a combination of fine play down the left hand side by Katrina Nicholson and some superb individual skill in the tight saw Player of the Match Richard's claim her second and make the score 4-4 with eleven minutes to play. Despite this, the visitors were back in the lead with eight minutes to go, converting their only corner of the game. Once again Buckingham fought back, creating a number of openings but Newlyn was denied again by a fine save with two minutes to go and the visitors held out for a 5-4 victory. Although it was a disappointing result, there were many pleasing aspects to the performance and with results once again going Buckingham's way, the side go into their last league game away at Slough knowing that any result will guarantee them a top four finish and see them in a playoff semi-final for the second year in a row.
"It was an incredible game of hockey - especially for the neutral!! We actually played really well in so many facets of the game but ultimately paid the price for a few little lapses on defence and also our lack of accuracy in the attacking D, both from open play and at penalty corner time. If anything, this match just highlighted how small the margins are between success and failure at the highest level and reinforced the need to continue to look to improve in those crucial areas. However, I am very proud of the girls. Once again we showed incredible character, resilience and belief to come back from 4-0 down and played some really good hockey. All that hopefully stands us in good stead going into our crucial final league game."