Canterbury make final with narrow win over Clifton

Canterbury celebrate Jen Wilson's opener

Canterbury 2 (2)
Jen Wilson 21 (PC)
Nikki Lloyd 21 (F)

Clifton 1 (1)
Claire Thomas 27 (F)

Click here for all the scorers, stats and results from today's semi finals.

Canterbury set up a repeat of last year’s final with Surbiton as they edged past Clifton in an exciting game which finished 2-1 to the Kent side. Goals from Player-Coach Jen Wilson and a second from Nikki Lloyd did the damage, though Claire Thomas’s reply ensured it was far from comfortable.

The game started at a high pace as both sides worked hard to get their noses in front. Canterbury forced the first penalty corner of the match but Grace Balsdon’s low drag flick was well saved by Caitlin Jeffries diving to her right.

The second quarter was also fairly even but Canterbury turned the game on its head in the space of a couple of minutes. Wilson guided the ball home from a well-worked penalty corner and then Susannah Townsend left defenders trailing in her wake with a searing burst of pace before firing the ball across for Lloyd to apply the finish.

Clifton almost grabbed an equaliser but Harriet Pearce’s bullet penalty corner was brilliantly saved by Helen Fagg in the Canterbury goal. With nine minutes on the clock till the break Clifton halved the deficit as Thomas forced the ball over the line from close range, leaving it all to play for in the second half.

The third quarter was a little on the frantic side as both sides knew the importance of the next goal. Fagg excelled herself pulling off two excellent penalty corner saves to deny Pearce and Els Mansell before Joie Leigh’s superb cross fizzed past the far post with three Clifton players diving in for a touch that just eluded them. Leigh did well on the stroke of quarter time to engineer some space but once again Fagg did well, plunging to her right to get a strong glove on the ball to keep her team’s noses in front.

With three minutes gone in the quarter Canterbury had a penalty corner of their own. Mel Clewlow hit a trademark thunderbolt but Jeffries did well to smother the shot.
As legs tired, the pace of Eliza Brett became more of a threat. The No8 showed the defence a clean pair of heels only for Jeffries to dash from her line to make another important intervention. With five minutes left on the clock Clifton won another penalty corner. The crowd fell silent as they lined up and then there was a roar from the Canterbury fans as Aileen Davis’ deflected effort was blocked by Fagg in the Kent side’s goal. Clifton threw everything at their opponents and on full time they had one last chance, again from a penalty corner. Clifton had everyone up but Canterbury’s defence did the job and they held on for the win.

Canterbury’s Susannah Townsend told England Hockey afterwards:
“It wasn't pretty. We had our game plan, which was built around the pace we have in the team and we managed to get the two goals in the second quarter, but credit to Clifton they came back at us and we had to hang on for the win. It wasn’t our best performance, but I think it’s the sign of a good team to get the result when we’ve not played our best.”

Clifton Captain Aileen Davis couldn’t hide her disappointment after her side’s defeat:
“We came out and put a really solid performance together. The last quarter in particular we were all over them [Canterbury], but unfortunately we got a goal disallowed and had a few chances we didn’t manage to convert and that meant we didn’t get the result we wanted today.”

Canterbury will now face title holders Surbiton in tomorrow’s final, whilst Clifton will have to pick themselves up to face Reading in the 3rd-4th place playoff.
You can still buy tickets to the final day of the Investec Women's Finals weekend. They are available until midnight online, or on the gate on Sunday.