Canterbury march onto final with first half blitz

Chamberlain celebrates for Canterbury 480 x 290

Canterbury 4 (4)
Anna Kolarova 3 (PC)
Anna Baker 10 (FG)
Dirkie Chamberlain 14 (FG)
Susie Rowe 20 (FG)

University Of Birmingham 2 (1)
Vanessa Hawkins 10 (FG)
Alice Wills 27 (FG)

Canterbury marched on to this afternoon’s final with a strong display to see off University of Birmingham in the first semi-final. Goals from Anna Kolarova, Anna Baker, Dirkie Chamberlain and Susie Rowe did the damage and despite a strong showing from Birmingham in the second half the Kent side took the win.

Canterbury settled the quicker of the two sides and won an early penalty corner. Captain Grace Balsdon took the shot but was denied by a fine save by Jen Mashford diving to her right. They mixed up their routines on the next penalty corner as Anna Kolarova beat the goalkeeper with a fierce drag flick to open the scoring.

Birmingham created their first chance of the game shortly after but Erica Sanders was denied by Helen Fagg in the Canterbury goal. The Kent side hit back and Balsdon was unlucky to be kept out from another penalty corner by a spectacular goal line clearance from Tina Evans.

On ten minutes the Students levelled it up. Vanessa Hawkins found a pocket of space inside the circle and slotted the ball coolly through the goalkeeper’s legs. Parity lasted a matter of seconds as a long pass from Balsdon was tipped in by Anna Baker to make it 2-1.

It was 3-1 with just seven minutes to play in the half. A swift counterattack by the Polo Farm side freed Dirkie Chamberlain who calmly slid the ball past the goalkeeper to the delight of the Green and White Army.

Fagg preserved the two goal cushion with a splendid diving save across her goal and then it got even better for the Kent side when Susie Rowe ripped an unstoppable strike into the bottom corner to increase the lead. Despite some outstanding skills from Hannah Martin, Birmingham trailed 4-1 at the break.

Canterbury started brightly in the second half with Sarah Kerly’s pace causing the University plenty of problems but it was the Students who almost struck back. Sanders’ shot somehow struck the post and bounced out. They did claw one back in the 27th minute. A ball off the boards found its way to Alice Wills who deceived the goalkeeper with an exquisite finish to make it 4-2.

Mashford made a splendid stop to keep out Chamberlain as the game swung from end to end. Birmingham put Canterbury under immense pressure but the counterattack was always on. Rowe played a lovely diagonal pass to Jen Wilson who played it straight on to Kolarova. Her shot drew a good save from Mashford. Green cards for Balsdon and Chamberlain in quick succession reduced Canterbury to four players and Birmingham took off their goalkeeper in an attempt to capitalise. It almost paid off immediately as they hit the post for a second time. With Canterbury back up to a full compliment they almost scored but Rebecca Condie, in the kicking back role produced a heroic piece of defending to deny Kerly.

Despite their frenzied attempts on the Canterbury goal, Birmingham could find no way through and the Kent side progressed to the final.

Watch Canterbury captain Grace Balsdon's post match interview here:

Canterbury now await the winner of the second semi-final between Bowdon Hightown and East Grinstead. You can watch the action live on BT Sport.