Leicester sign off in Austria

Nic White Leicester Indoor- 450

Leicester Ladies' European indoor campaign came to an end on Sunday morning with the Pukkas going down 2-0 to Ritm-Azot Grodno. Their relegation from the top tier was already known following defeat on Saturday afternoon and two goals from the Belarussians - one early in the first half, one late in the second - rounded off a tough weekend back amongst Europe's best.

The outcome means England's representatives next year, 2013 Maxifuel Super Sixes champions Reading, will play in the second tier of the European indoor competition. Dutch club Den Bosch took the title - the first time that a non-German club has won Europe's premier indoor competition.

On Saturday, despite putting in a strong performance against Germany's Rot-Weiss Koln, Leicester lost their final pool match at the EuroHockey Indoor Club Cup 2-0, a result that confirmed the Midlanders' place in Pool C in Vienna.

Pool C sees the bottom two sides in A and B compete to survive the drop to Europe's second tier next season. 

And in their first of two games in Pool C, Leicester went down 2-1 to hosts SV Arminen. Katie Long equalised the Austrians half time lead shortly after the break from a penalty corner but their hopes of a share of the spoils were smashed in the dying seconds as Arminen struck from their own set piece.

The opening day of the EuroHockey Indoor Club Cup had seen Leicester lose their first match narrowly by just 1-0 to Spanish side Club de Campo before losing to Ginta Strekta of Lithuania 3-1 in the afternoon.

Despite conceding to the Spanish before the break, the 2012 Maxifuel Super Sixes Champions couldn't find a way past the solid defence.

Against Gintra Strekte, Leciester were behind after seven minutes but it remained 1-0 at the break and the Pukkas were well in with a chance. But midway through the second half they conceded a second and a third soon after. They withdrew goalkeeper Maddie Hinch in an effort to battle back but ultimately went down 3-1; Kerry Williams bagging the late goal for the Pukkas from a penalty corner.

Follow the tournament on the official tournament website.

On Twitter, follow @svarminen for live match tweets or use the hashtag #EHICVienna.

Earlier this week, Vanessa Hawkins gave us her take on Leicester's European campaign...

Leicester Ladies go into this weekend’s EuroHockey Indoor Club Cup in Vienna with a real sense of occasion. Two years ago the East Midlands club competed in the second tier of the European competition and they got a real taste for it. On that occasion however they missed out on promotion by the narrowest of margins on goal difference to Scottish side Dundee Wanderers.

Just last weekend, East Grinstead’s men took the title at the EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy tournament in the same venue and while a similar result in the top tier of the women’s competition might seem unlikely given the strength of the Germans, the girls in orange are thoroughly looking forward to the challenge ahead.

Leicester’s Vanessa Hawkins told the England Hockey website: “The team is feeling confident of putting on a good show, if not a little apprehensive. We’re very excited to playing in this prestigious tournament. We had a positive indoor season topping the Maxifuel Super Sixes Premier Division table, and although we didn’t make it to the final this year we learnt a lot from our playoff semi final defeat.”

As Hawkins points out, no club from outside of Germany has ever won the European women’s indoor title and it’s hard to look beyond them as favourites in Vienna.  “We feel Rot-Weiss Koln will be the team to beat this weekend. They have a lot of pressure on their shoulders as a non-German club has never won this competition. We’re looking forward to facing them in our third pool match.”  

Leicester face the Germans in the first match on Saturday morning (08:00 GMT). By that stage the East Midlands side will have faced Spain's Club de Campo (Friday, 10:40 GMT) and Gintra Strekte Uni of Lithuania (14:30 GMT) and will know exactly what’s required of them. Good results in their opening fixtures would give them the opportunity to progress to the top four pool, Pool C. Teams in Pool D, which will feature the sides finishing third and fourth in their opening pools, will play off to avoid the drop.

The Leicester skipper identifies the returning goalkeeper Maddie Hinch as key to her side’s hope. Hinch has recently returned from South Africa, where she attracted the plaudits for a string of good performances for England at the Investec Challenge. “Maddie Hinch is a key player for us,” admitted Hawkins. “Her speed, agility and natural talent as a goalkeeper resonate to the indoor game, allowing her to dominate the defensive circle.  Nic White (pictured) and Katie Long are also lively players, creating opportunities and causing trouble in attack. And our England indoor stars Kerry Williams and Hannah Smith are really the backbone of our defence.”

But it’s not all about the big names. In Carmen Simpson, Jo Hunter and Josie Inverdale the Pukkas, as they’re known, have three talented stars of the future who will be called upon to play their part in Austria.

And Hawkins acknowledges the support of the team’s sponsors who have helped back the club in its European campaign. “We’ve had great support from the likes of Pukka Pies, Grays, Precision Training and local businesses in Leicester,” says Hawkins. “Without all of this we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we do. And the media too has been superb. Ian Stringer from BBC Leicester is travelling with the team and will be reporting on each game.”

Follow Leicester’s European indoor campaign via the SV Arminen website.

On Twitter, use #EHICVienna. Follow @svarminen for live match tweets.