The Road to Lee Valley: Women's Semi-Final Preview

Steve Rixon Clifton Coach 2


This weekend is the semi-final of the Investec Women’s Cup with two mouth watering ties shaping up in prospect. We take a look at the contenders hoping to make that all-important final step on the Road to Lee Valley.

Clifton vs. Bowdon Hightown.

This tie is an all Investec Premier Division clash as Clifton, flying high in the top division in third place, take on Bowdon Hightown, who currently sit eighth.

It’s been a season of contrasts for the two sides as Clifton have lost just twice in the league this time out, whilst Hightown are still trying to ward off the threat of relegation with two games to go.

Bowdon have tasted success this season however, being crowned Hockey 5s Champions at the start of the year after a fantastic indoor campaign whilst the cup has provided a welcome distraction from their trials and tribulations in the league.

First up they beat Sutton Coldfield 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw, before seeing off Premier Division rivals Leicester, 2-1 and then Conference North outfit Brooklands Poynton 3-1 in the last round.

Bowdon have plenty of quality in their ranks with the legendary Tina Cullen leading the forward line. Up-and-coming star Holly Hunt, recently named Hockey Writers Club Young Player of the Year looks like she has learnt plenty from her illustrious strike partner and is definitely one to watch. Lisa-Emma Crewe has weighed in with some important goals of late and Amy Tennant is a rock between the posts.

Canterbury's Susie Rowe challenges Bowdon's Holly Hunt, Feb 8 2014 - 450

Clifton are flying this season. The side dubbed the Silent Assassins are not so silent these days, qualifying for the Championship Playoffs once again after a series of excellent displays which has seen them lose just twice in the league.

Their cup run has taken in wins over Slough (via a walkover), University of Birmingham (1-0) and Gloucester City (2-0). Clifton have won the cup twice before with their last final appearance coming in 2004-05 when they were defeated by Leicester. Their side now is famed for their incredible work ethic and their superb levels of fitness but they are also an extremely talented group. Joie Leigh is in scintillating form this season having broken into the international set up, whilst Els Mansell continues to pose a threat up front. Claire Thomas, a summer signing from Isca has proved a fine addition, chipping in with her share of goals, too.

With plenty of excellent attacking threats on the pitch it should be an exciting clash.

Loughborough Students vs. Surbiton.

It’s not quite David vs. Goliath but Loughborough Students are the only remaining side from outside the Premier Division whilst Surbiton have so far swept all before them, remaining undefeated in the league this season on their way to the top of the pile.

Surbiton are the cup holders and have progressed without too much alarm, seeing off Hampstead and Westminster in a repeat of last year’s final, 5-0 before beating Holcombe and Oxford Hawks 3-1 and 2-0 respectively.

A team full of stars their international contingent has swelled to four as well as a scattering of ex-internationals and some top class rising talent. Under the tutelage of Brett Garrard, Surbiton have become a real force in the domestic game. They can score plenty of goals and with the likes of Jenna Woolven, Sarah Page, Rebecca Herbert and Julia King bearing down on goal, it is a line up to be feared.

Loughborough celebrate scoring

Loughborough are the competition’s Cinderella story in many ways. A side that has competed well in the North Conference, currently sitting in fifth place, they have found the one-off, never-say-die nature of the cup to be to their liking.

They have dumped out Premier League outfits Beeston and Buckingham both by virtue of penalty shootouts and have also despatched Tulse Hill and Dulwich 6-1.

A hard-working side bursting with talent they have a goal threat which will not come as a surprise to their illustrious opponents: Ellie Tait, who has scored six times in the cup this season and 17 times in the league, is a former Surbiton player who bagged a hat-trick when the two sides met in the competition last year. Although Tait’s treble ultimately proved in vain in a 4-3 loss, Surbiton will be acutely aware of what she is capable of.
They are far from a one-woman team, however with a cluster of youth internationals and talented players, including Captain Kim Leiper, goalkeeper Laura Myers and Welsh international Beth Bingham all part of a very promising squad. They will be going in with no fear and hoping to spring a surprise to make it to the final at Lee Valley.

    

You can see all of the information about this year's Investec Women's Cup Competitions, including how to buy tickets to the finals by clicking here.