Week Two Featured Match Review: Women's

Katie Long, Leicester-450px

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Featured match report - Leicester vs Bowdon Hightown

Bowdon Hightown maintained their winning start to the season with an excellent defensive display to snatch a 1-0 win over Leicester at Leicester Grammar School.

The Pukkas’ preparation was disrupted by the departure this week of Coach Duncan Woods, after one game in charge. Woods was replaced at late notice by David Mayer, who was previously the club’s second team coach.

Natalie Wray bagged the winner in the 53rd minute, scooping home the rebound from a penalty corner to spare Tina Cullen’s blushes after player-coach squandered an early penalty stroke.

The penalty stroke was the first incident of any real note as the ball was deemed to have struck Hannah Fair’s foot on the line after just 2 minutes. Cullen, normally so clinical in front of goal stepped up but her effort was straight at Maggs Rees who made the save.

In a cagey first half, chances were hard to come by. Rees kicked clear a Wray deflection after a good run and cross by Kerry Hall down the left whilst at the other end Paz Massey showed excellent skills to break into the Bowdon D on the right, firing a fierce shot at goal that Amy Tennant beat away with her gloves.

Leicester forced a number of penalty corners but were unable to capitalise on them as first Lily Elliot was denied by Tennant and then Kerry Whitehead sliding in could not divert the ball past the goalkeeper who smothered well.

The sides went in at the break level at 0-0 and it was still anyone’s game. Leicester opened the second period with a good chance after a smart turn and run from the 25 by Massey. She broke into the D on the right once more and again hit a fierce shot that Tennant kept out via a combination of glove and facemask ensuring the scores stayed level.

The Pukkas were unlucky not to score just moments later. Jess Hickman showed excellent strength and skill to hold off the defenders as she entered the D. She moved the ball round the goalkeeper who flattened her. The umpire played advantage as the ball fell kindly for the attacking side, but the shot went wide and a glorious chance had gone begging.

Bowdon were starting to grow as an attacking force into the game, with Holly Hunt and Wray combining well down the right hand side, pushing Leicester back with their pace and direct running.

In a passage of play that proved to be crucial to the outcome of the game, Leicester were reduced to nine players. First Lucy Barrett was yellow carded and then Captain Vannessa Hawkins was forced to sit out, after picking up a green card. Bowdon took full advantage and got their noses in front, Wray showed a cool head to lift the ball over Rees after the Welsh international had saved the initial penalty corner.

Leicester threw everything at the visitors in an attempt to get back into the match. Katie Long worked tirelessly down the left to try and create something and Massey was still causing a threat, firing in a good cross that Georgia Harrison couldn’t quite reach, however, the visitors’ defence stood firm.

With time running out, Bowdon forced a penalty corner but Fiona Harland’s fierce strike was cleared off the line by Josie Inverdale.

The final whistle sounded and Bowdon had their first win at Leicester in the Premier League, much to the delight of Player-coach Tina Cullen: “We had great belief we could come here and get something today. We’d have taken a point but some of my players were absolutely outstanding so we’re delighted to pick up a win. Obviously Natalie Wray saved my bacon with the winner, after I missed that stroke. Not the best I’ve ever taken!” She added: “I have to mention Amy Tennant in goal too. Kirsty Mackay left us this week [for East Grinstead] but Amy made some crucial saves today and really stepped up. The good thing about our squad is whoever we lose, the rest of us are united and we don’t go down without a fight.”

Leicester’s Katie Long could not hide her frustration, telling England Hockey: “We’re very disappointed not to have won today. We had plenty of the ball and enough chances to take the game, we lost due to some sloppy play. We need to improve our fitness levels so that we can grind out results in games like these.

David Mayer was philosophical, despite the disappointment of the result: “Our preparations weren’t ideal but the result today doesn’t mean it’s the end of the season for us by any stretch of the imagination. I think Steve Bayer [Reading Coach] said they are going through their pre-season now and it’s the same for us. We have things to work on, but I’m sure as time progresses we’ll be fine.” He continued: “Nicola White and Jo Hunter will be available next week which will give us a little more punch up front. I think that’s something we lacked today. Our build up was ok but we perhaps lacked a cutting edge. Every team needs that edge in the final third and maybe our missing players would have made a difference in that respect.”

Next week Hightown aim to make it three wins from three as they host Canterbury who are also unbeaten, whilst Leicester will be aiming to bounce back with a local derby away at Sutton Coldfield.