Reflecting on weekend one of the new indoor season

Tina Cullen for Bowdon Hightown in the Maxi5s indoor 2013 450

The first weekend of the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Championships has come to an end with Slough sitting proudly at the top of the table and Bowdon Hightown in hot pursuit in second place.

With the game changing from 6-a-side to 5-a-side this season it was an interesting spectacle to see how teams would cope with the change of tactics. There was plenty of drama over the first two days of action with 146 goals across 18 games.

Click here for all the results from the weekend’s action.

Ross Bone followed the action on day two and caught up with some of the captains following their games on Sunday to find out what they thought of their team’s performances and the new 5-a-side rule.

Harleston Magpies 5-7 Canterbury

Harleston and Canterbury went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting games of the day, trading blows in a topsy-turvy encounter that Jen Wilson’s side eventually won 7-5.

Harleston made a fast start and raced into a 3-0 lead early on. Canterbury took some time to get going but having composed themselves after their initial poor start Nikki Kidd took centre stage. The Scotland star scored twice to haul Canterbury back into contention and then linked up with Susie Rowe to set up Jen Wilson for the equaliser. Harleston edged back in front through Emma-Lee Smith and managed to get to the break ahead 4-3.

Canterbury levelled and then took the lead through two quick goals from Nikki Lloyd straight after the break but some good goalkeeping from Megan Adams including a penalty save from Kidd kept Harleston in the game. Magpies drew level with just eight minutes left and it looked like the spoils might be shared only for Canterbury to go back ahead with a bullet from Mel Clewlow. Kidd added another to make the game safe and Canterbury celebrated going into the second weekend with seven points on the board.

Canterbury’s Nikki Kidd, who scored eleven goals over the weekend, was philosophical about her team’s chances, saying:

“We knew we needed to get six points from the Sunday and we showed good character today to do that. We were much better than yesterday and very pleased with where we are now.” She added:  “We play with a similar attitude to our outdoor game, lots of intensity and determination. We have seven points and we’ve learnt a lot this weekend so hopefully we can build on those performances and try and get the results we need and see where we finish up at the end of it.”

Thoughts on the new rule from Nikki Lloyd, Canterbury:

"I like the new rule. It means that there is a bit more time on the ball and you can use the angles and work space more. I’m a player who likes to run with the ball too so more space is an advantage for players like me. It’s easier to beat player with more time and space so if you want to try some skills I think you can now."

Reading 10-1 East Grinstead

Reigning champions Reading fired a warning shot to the rest of the league with a display of clinical finishing to put ten past East Grinstead and pick up a third win from four on the opening weekend.

Kirsty Mackay produced another heroic display in goal for the Sussex side but she could do little to keep Reading out as Emma Thomas, Susie Gilbert, Emily Maguire and Helen Richardson-Walsh scored twice each. Reading went in at the break leading by 5-1, Tabitha Worsley striking the solitary reply for East Grinstead. In the second half EG sat deep, trying to limit the damage but Reading’s ball pace, rotation of players and movement on and off the ball proved to be too much, the Sonning Lane side ran in a further five with Helen Richardson-Walsh’s second goal, Reading’s ninth, the pick of the bunch after some splendid one touch passing. Traditionally Reading start slow and improve, so having nine points after the first week leaves them very handily placed.

Emma Thomas, who lifted the trophy at Wembley last year, told England Hockey:

“I think we can be really pleased with how this weekend has gone. I think if we’d been offered nine points beforehand we’d have taken it. We’ve improved across the four games and that’s something we’ve had success from in the past-our ability to keep getting better so I think we have some things to tweak but we’re pretty happy.” She added: “We have a talented squad with a lot of depth. We have the capabilities to get to the finals but there are a lot of other teams with very good squads so we’ll have to see how it goes.”

Slough 5-1 Sutton Coldfield

Slough made it four wins from four with another excellent display to defeat last year’s finalists Sutton Coldfield 5-1, putting them top of the league at the end of the first weekend. The first half was keenly contested with both sides attacking in numbers in an attempt to take the lead. Slough defended superbly and with a brace from Alex Scott went into the break leading 2-1.

The game was finely poised but Slough showed the better composure in front of goal, extending their lead with a lovely finish from Laura Puddle after good approach work from Ashleigh Ball. Slough’s penalty corner defence proved to be a huge asset as they were able to not only snuff out the danger from Sutton but also to counterattack, causing The Mighty Pinks’ goalkeeper Becky Batsford to bail her side out with some excellent saves. With the league leaders going 4-1 up through Nora Ilkei Sutton opted to go for a kicking back and despite Emma McCabe’s tenacity in the role she could do nothing to prevent Slough running in a fifth from Mel Ball to put the icing on the cake. Slough will go into the second weekend full of confidence after an excellent start to the competition.

Kat McGonigle, Slough’s captain was thrilled with her team’s efforts as they ended week one top of the league:

“We’re very happy with four wins from four. We’ve worked very hard for every win and I’m really proud of the team and how we’ve performed. The work ethic of our team got us where we are. We’d have been happy to come away with nine points but 12 we’re ecstatic with.” She added:  “Being top puts some pressure on us but we’ve got better as the games have gone on. We’re confident that with twelve points we can get some points in the second weekend and hopefully secure a semi-final place. “

Thoughts on the new rule from Becky Batsford, Sutton Coldfield:

"I think we’ve adjusted quite well. When we first heard about it we were, like most teams, concerned how it would go, but overall we’ve done ok. It means the goalkeepers have to play a bit higher which is good for me and good practice. I’ve had to adjust a bit, I play quite high anyway but perhaps not as high as other goalkeepers so I’ve had to learn to operate as an extra defender almost, but it’s been ok so far. "

Bowdon Hightown 8-2 Leicester

Tina Cullen rolled back the years with a master class in forward play as her hat-trick and Sally Walton’s five goals allowed Bowdon Hightown to put Leicester to the sword with an 8-2 win.

Bowdon went in leading 4-0 at the break with Cullen netting twice as Bowdon’s pace and ball movement caused Leicester problems. The Pukkas rallied after half time and scored two quick goals through Katie Long and Nic White to reduce the arrears to 3-2 but it wasn’t long before Cullen and Great Britain star Sally Walton took centre stage. Cullen showed tremendous desire to get in front of her marker to snatch Bowdon’s fifth and from there they never looked back. Sally Walton added to her personal tally with a three goal blitz in four minutes and Hightown picked up the win, their third win of the weekend.   

Afterwards Player-Coach Cullen told England Hockey:

“We didn’t set goals coming in. We play one game at a time. Anything can happen indoor so you have to play the game, do a job and move onto the next. As long as you finish in the top four that’s all that matters. That is the aim, we feel we owe ourselves after last year but we’re just enjoying the hockey really. The young players are coming along nicely; we’re well placed and very happy with the first weekend.”

With the second weekend of the competition to come and plenty of points up for grabs it is still all to play for as the teams battle to get to play at Wembley.