Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Women’s Semi Final: Bowdon Hightown 5-5 Canterbury (2-1 after shootout)

Canterbury's Susie Rowe is challenged by Bowdon Fay Nash during their Maxi 5s semifinal at Kettering, 11th January 2014

Goalkeeper Amy Tennant was her side’s hero as she saved twice in the shootout to seal a 2-1 win for Tina Cullen’s side, sending Bowdon Hightown to the Wembley final for the first time since 2011.

Tennant kept out Jen Wilson and Nikki Lloyd to secure a 2-1 win in the shootout after the sides could not be separated during normal time, drawing 5-5.

Canterbury struck first with an early goal from Scotland Star Nikki Kidd who linked up beautifully with Lloyd before slotting the ball calmly into the bottom corner. Bowdon hit back, forcing a penalty corner, but Michelle Liptrot’s flick was kept out by Helen Fagg in the Canterbury goal. Jen Wilson’s side then extended their lead with a well-worked goal in the 11th minute. Kidd turned provider this time, breaking forward on the right and sliding a perfect pass into the D to Anna Baker who produced a lovely first time finish making it 2-0.

Sally Walton, in fine goal scoring form in the league phase of the competition was then frustrated twice by terrific saves from Fagg to keep out two almost identical penalty corners.

Canterbury could have made it 3-0 but Wilson’s shot on the turn from the top of the D beat Tennant but rolled agonizingly wide of the post. With six minutes left in the half Walton finally got the better of Fagg, beating her at the near post with a low drag flick. Canterbury were unlucky not to re-establish their two goal cushion moments later as Lloyd fed Kidd whose first time shot cannoned back off the post. With three minutes left in the half, parity was restored. Former Canterbury captain Susannah Townsend turned well on the left of the D and found the far corner to tie the game up.

It looked like the sides would go in at the break level, but Tina Cullen had other ideas. On the stroke of half time she collected the ball on the left side with her back to goal. Cullen beat Susie Rowe with an outrageous piece of skill before calmly slotting the ball into the far corner to give her team the lead.

Both sides came out strongly at the start of the second half. Kidd went close with a penalty corner before Liptrot was denied by an excellent goal line clearance by Susie Rowe, who showed impeccable cricketing technique to repel the chance.

With Canterbury increasing the pressure in search of an equaliser, Hightown swept forward on the counterattack. Walton drove down the right and slipped a lovely cross-field pass into Cullen who made no mistake, grabbing her second and Bowdon’s fourth.

Two minutes later Canterbury clawed themselves back into the match as Mel Clewlow buried a low penalty corner. They continued to press higher up the pitch in search of the equaliser. Tennant showed great agility to deny Lloyd twice in quick succession and then blocked from Kidd to preserve the lead. However, with five minutes left Lloyd fed Rowe on the right. Her cross fell to Captain Grace Balsdon who finished well from near the top of the D to make it 4-4.

With three minutes left, the momentum swung again as Hightown were awarded a penalty stroke which was despatched by Walton, seemingly giving her side a place in the final. However, Canterbury were not finished yet. Wilson seemed to be penned in inside the D but found a superb through the legs pass to Kidd who steered a precise finish into the far corner to tie it up at 5-5. There was still time for the Kent side to force a penalty corner with the last play. Kidd rounded the goalkeeper and shot only to see Liptrot produce an excellent block on the line to take the game into a shootout.

Kidd went first and scored before Cullen showed her class and beat Fagg with ease. Tennant then did well to keep out Wilson before Fay Nash; the Hightown captain buried her effort from the top of the D. That left Nikki Lloyd who had to score but Tennant tracked her well to the left and made the block to send Bowdon to Wembley and Canterbury out in agonizing fashion.

Afterwards, Canterbury’s Mel Clewlow told England Hockey:

“From a spectator perspective the game had everything. It swung backwards and forwards, which is what indoor is all about. We’re disappointed not to make the final. Hitting the post and missing a corner at the end shows we could have made it but Bowdon showed their class in the shootout. For us to even get a 5-5 draw after losing 9-5 in the league we’re chuffed with the progress we’ve made. It’s a shame to fall at the final hurdle like that but hopefully we’ll be back next year.”

Bowdon Hightown Skipper Fay Nash was delighted with her side’s efforts in reaching another Wembley final:

“I’m so proud. We went into the game with a lot to prove, but we all did our jobs. We did it the Hightown way, made it difficult for ourselves but I suppose it’s exciting for the crowd that way. I watched last year’s semi-final last night before I went to bed. There was no way I was letting that happen again. It motivates us all in different ways, but this year we believed in ourselves and it paid off in the end.”

Nash also paid tribute to goalkeeper, Amy Tennant who saved twice in the shootout:

“She is such a quality indoor player and a quality goalkeeper. You forget how young she is when you think of what she’s achieved already. We know we can rely on her. We know she’ll do the business. She’s only 20, but you look on her like you do some of our senior players. She’s a class goalkeeper, which she showed again tonight. We’re all so proud of her.”

Don't forget, you can still buy tickets for the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Championship Finals, taking place at Wembley Arena on Sunday 2 February