Canterbury double header featured match review: Canterbury 2-1 Surbiton

Surbiton had taken the lead through Vicky Bryant in the opening minutes, but a defensive master class from Mel Clewlow and Captain Grace Balsdon ensured that the visitors couldn’t add to their tally and went home empty-handed.

Surbiton took the lead with their first attack of the match. Rebecca Herbert broke down the right and fired in a bouncing cross that was diverted in by Vicky Bryant from close range.

The hosts almost levelled things up shortly after. A good diagonal ball from Clewlow found Nikki Kidd whose first time deflection went just wide. They didn’t have to wait long for the equaliser however. On 20 minutes Eliza Brett showed pace and strength to break a tackle on the edge of the D and drive goalwards. She hit a good reverse stick-cross that a sliding Jen Wilson touched home at the far post for an excellent goal.

Kidd was denied minutes later from a penalty corner by a flying save from Abi Walker and the game reached half time at 1-1.

The second half was a little cagey with both sides keen not to give the other an advantage. Balsdon played a lovely pass down the left to find Brett whose cross was well cleared by Walker with Wilson diving in once more trying to get a vital touch.

Brett’s direct style, 3D skills and blistering pace was giving Hollie Webb plenty to deal with down the left side as an enthralling battle developed between the England star and the young Canterbury attacker.

On 51 minutes Kidd set up what turned out to be the winner. She made a quick break down the left side and into the D before showing good composure and technique to fizz in a perfect cross that was diverted into the far corner by Kim Young to make it 2-1.

Surbiton pressed hard for an equaliser but Clewlow rolled back the years with an exemplary display of tackling and calm distribution to frustrate the visitors’ forwards.

With eight minutes left, Surbiton had a big chance to draw level as they forced a penalty corner. Giselle Ansley stepped up and flicked high towards the top corner only to see Helen Fagg make a fine diving save to preserve the lead.

Despite a late rally from the visitors, Canterbury saw them off to go level on points with Reading at the top of the league.

At full time, Player-Coach Jen Wilson was understandably delighted with her team:

“I’m ecstatic with the three points. The team and the squad did the hard work that was required and brought a real toughness and energy to the game today. We knew we wouldn’t get many chances against a solid defence and a good goalkeeper but the ones we got we finished well. I thought we defended exceptionally too, so I’m pleased with the overall performance.”

Wilson also paid tribute to Canterbury’s defensive pairing, Clewlow and Balsdon, telling England Hockey:

“I have to compliment them, they’ve been outstanding. Mel and Grace in the middle together give us so much talent and so much experience that the rest of the players really feed off that. They have been outstanding for us and really given us a platform to build on.” She added: “Grace is a smart player. She’s watched who she’s playing alongside, learnt from them and put those lessons into practice. For someone of her age, having taken on the captaincy as well, it’s a lot of pressure on her shoulders and she’s managing it superbly. She’s an exciting and promising young player.”

Captain Balsdon also gave her own assessment of the game:

“We played very well together today and although we’re not necessarily the best team on paper in the league, we showed today we can compete. We defended superbly and we’re delighted with the result.” The skipper added: “We started very strongly this year but we’re just taking it game by game at the moment. Playoffs would be fantastic if we make them and that’s a long term aim, but to be honest we’re more focused on each game. If we do the right things each week, then we’ll keep picking up points hopefully we’ll get the outcome we want.”

Surbiton Coach Brett Garrard was disappointed with the loss but also highlighted the positives for his team, saying:

“That’s the best we’ve defended as a team this season. I was happy with our discipline and the way we stuck to how we wanted to defend. Probably we could have been a bit better on the ball and perhaps their chances and their goals came from mistakes by us but overall we’re a work in progress and I felt we made some improvements today.” He continued: “If we combine how we defended today and how we used the ball last week against University of Birmingham results will come. I’m disappointed with the result today but I’m also realistic in terms of where we are as a group at the moment and where we’re trying to get to.”

Next week both teams have a break due to the Futures Cup. They will resume their league campaigns on 9 November with Canterbury travelling to Olton and West Warwicks and Surbiton playing host to Bowdon Hightown.

If you want to read the report on the men's teams' side of the double header, click here. For all of the results for the NOW: Pensions Men's and Investec Women's Hockey Leagues, why not visit our competitions pages?