Canterbury double header featured match review - Women: Canterbury 1-0 Reading

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Canterbury moved to the top of the Investec Women’s Premier League after a Mel Clewlow penalty corner handed them a 1-0 win over Reading at Polo Farm. The former Great Britain defender struck in the 21st minute, to give the Kent side their second league win over Steve Bayer’s team this season.

The opening exchanges were somewhat cagey with both defences on top, ensuring clear chances were hard to come by. It took until the 17th minute for the first shot on target: Canterbury’s Gen Masters’ snap shot on the turn was kicked clear by Sarah Ellis in the Reading goal. Masters had another opportunity just moments later as she seized on a loose ball in the D, only to see Ellis make a good block to keep her out.

In the 21st minute the home side drew first blood from a penalty corner. Clewlow exchanged passes with Grace Balsdon and beat Ellis from close range with the aid of a slight deflection. Clewlow then popped up at the other end to get a vital touch onto an Emily Maguire penalty corner to divert it wide and keep the lead intact.

Nikki Kidd went close with a near post deflection before the same player was denied from a penalty corner when her drag flick struck her teammate Jen Wilson on the head, resulting in the Player-Coach taking a trip to hospital after the game. Clewlow tested Ellis’ reflexes with a fierce penalty corner strike just before the break but the Reading No. 1 was equal to the task and saved well.

After the break Reading forced another penalty corner. Captain Emma Thomas flicked low for the corner but Helen Fagg got down well to make a splendid save.

The visitors were enjoying lots of the ball but found Canterbury’s back four extremely difficult to break down, Clewlow in particular was in scintillating form. Thomas thought she’d grabbed her side an equaliser from a penalty corner late on when her powerful drag flick beat Fagg only for Clewlow to step up once again with a crucial goal line clearance. Canterbury’s defence stood firm and they kept Reading at bay to keep the clean sheet and take the three points.

Reading Coach Steve Bayer was pleased positive about his team’s efforts despite the defeat, telling England Hockey:

“I’m really proud of the girls to be honest. We’ve just come out and competed with one of the best teams in the league. On another day that game could have gone very differently.” He added: “I’m pleased with the performance as a whole. We played some different styles of hockey which worked well and we had two young players coming into the squad for the first time who both did really well, so overall there’s a lot to be pleased about. I’m not happy about missing out on the three points, but the performance was very good.”

Canterbury Captain Grace Balsdon was understandably very happy with her team’s efforts:

“We’re absolutely delighted to get the three points. There’ll be people who will say we beat a weaker Reading side but anyone who actually watched the game will have seen how good they are even without the international players. We ground it out today and were very pleased with the outcome.” She continued: “Defence has been the key for us this season. We’ve shown on a number of occasions that sides will find it hard to score against us, today was another example of that. We defended very well, especially in the last ten minutes when they were pushing for an equaliser. We’ve worked very hard in training on one-on-one defending, and that paid off today.”

Jen Wilson, Canterbury’s Player-Coach was also very satisfied but acknowledged there is still a long way to go:

“Not many teams can say they’ve beaten Reading twice in a season. We’re aware we haven’t played them at full strength but they have plenty of depth and plenty of players who were keen to show what they can do, so we knew it would be a battle today. Our focus each week is on the game we’re playing and not on things like points, who’s ahead of us, who’s chasing us etc. We won’t change that. If we can keep focussing on the job at hand and keep playing as we have then hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”

Next week Canterbury travel to University of Birmingham and Reading will play host to Olton and West Warwicks. To see all of the latest results and fixtures, take a look at our competitions pages.