Slough 2 Buckingham 3
By Zak Jones
Buckingham Secure Top 4 Playoff Slot
Without midfielder Eloise Laity (still out with concussion) and forward Liz Geroge with a broken foot, Buckingham travelled to relegation threatened Slough for their final league match of the season. With the hosts needing a win and other results to go their way in order to avoid being drawn into the relegation playoffs, any result for Buckingham would see them clear in fourth place and qualifying for a playoff semi-final. Slough are always tough side to break down and they set out their stall early, sitting deep and compact and looking to play on the counter attack. Buckingham dominated possession and territory from the off but in truth, were not really playing with any great intesnsity or tempo and so struggled to create any clear openings, apart from a couple of penalty corners, whilst the home side rarely threatened Ella Jackson's goal.
Buckingham finally made the break through when Lauren Thomas fired the ball into the bottom corner from Buckingham's third penalty corner in the twenty-eighth minute. However, their lead didn't last long as Slough were back on level terms just before half time. Some initial sloppy play resulted in a turnover and seemingly harsh penalty corner award and although the initial strike was miss hit, it somehow found its way past Jackson in goal.
The second half started badly for Buckingham as they conceded a soft penalty corner. Although Jackson made the initial save, the home side were first to pounce on the rebound to tale the lead. The 2-1 score line seemed to spur Buckingham into life and they began to dominate proceedings, playing with a real intensity, purpose and tempo. Despite a number near misses and creating a number of good chances including a penalty stroke with eight minutes remaining, Buckingham never lost heart or belief and the pressure finally told when Player of the match Phoebe Richards defelected the ball home with three minutes remaining to bring the scores level. With the home sides resistance seemingly broken, Buckingham scored again immediately from the from the restart. Richard's earned Buckingham's second penalty stroke and Lottie Porter calmly dispatched her spot flick with a minute remaining to give Buckingham a deserved 3-2 victory.
Slough are a very tough side to play against and this was a high pressure game, yet I was delighted with how much character, heart and resilience we showed once again. We stuck to our principles and processes, maintained our trust and belief in one another, kept going and in the end we got our just rewards. We can now look forward to our second top four playoffs in a row which is an incredible achievement for a club of our size. We will now prepare as well as we can for a tough semi final against Holcombe who finished top in the regular season. Everyone is very much looking forward to the challenge and to getting back to the Lee Valley Stadium in Olympic Park for the end of season showpiece.