Wonder Women Reach U21 Final

England Under 21 women secured their place in the final of the EuroHockey Junior Nations Championship in France in nail-biting style on Friday afternoon.

After trailing 2-0 to Germany early in the game, they battled back to 2-2 at the end of normal time, held their nerve throughout extra time and then secured a thrilling 9-8 victory on penalty strokes.

“It’s great to reach the final, but what’s even better is the manner in which the girls took this win,” said assistant coach Andy Bradshaw. “To fight back from 2-0 down shows real strength of character.

Becky Batsford makes a save in a penalty strokes shoot out against Germany for England U21 at the EuroHockey Junior Nations Championships (C) Federico Pestellini“The whole team did superbly, but especially Jess Wood for scoring twice, and goalkeeper Becky Batsford, who kept her nerve throughout the match and in the shootout. What a great way to celebrate your birthday!”

Germany made a great start and found themselves 2-0 ahead after open-play goals on 4 and 25 minutes.

But Belper’s Jess Wood scored a cracking goal five minutes before the break, scoring from the top of the circle to halve Germany’s lead.

And she popped up again with a contender for goal of the tournament on 38 minutes, a reverse stick shot from the left of the D flying into the top right corner of the goal to put England right back in the hunt.

Wood had a couple of chances to secure a glorious hat-trick, but England won the match the hard way.

No goals were forthcoming from either side for the rest of the match or from extra time, but some crucial saves from birthday girl Batsford - coupled with some excellent strikes - saw England into a final against the Netherlands at 5pm (BST) on Saturday.

England Under 21 women celebrate winning the EuroHockey Junior Nations Championships semi final over Germany, July 2010

Photos courtesy of Federico Pestellini

Hopes of victory in the men's EuroHockey Junior Nations Championships in Poland were dashed when England Under 21 men lost out 3-1 to The Netherlands in their semi final on Friday afternoon.

Despite controlling the game for long periods of matching their rivals for most of the game, England paid the penalty for failing to convert penalty corners.

All five of their penalty corners were squandered, but even so England will be disappointed not to have closed down the Dutch, and will now battle for bronze in their final game on Saturday.

The Netherlands were 2-0 ahead at half time, but in the early stages of the match England dominated and had some clear cut chances.

“We should’ve scored first,” said team manager Andy Halliday. “But our finishing which has been so sharp in this tournament so far deserted us, which was disappointing.”

A stick tackle by Patrick Smith in England’s goal led to The Netherlands’ opening goal on 29 minutes, Jan Buissant firing the resulting stroke into the left corner of the net.

And they doubled their lead two minutes later, Lukas Siebinga scoring from open play.

Both sides knew that the first goal of the second half would prove crucial, and England again rallied and created several chances, including three penalty corners. But they all came to nothing, and it was instead the Dutch who added to their tally.

With Will Hearn yellow-carded for not retreating five metres, the Netherlands capitalised on their numerical advantage with Dick Mohlmann scoring with a deflection on 52 minutes.

England did manage to narrow the gap with David Beckett smashing home a shot following a good drive into the Dutch circle by Henry Weir, while a good advantage from Scottish umpire Martin Madden helped England’s cause.

But despite continuing to push - and despite Ben Arnold hitting the post - England failed to add to their score and it will be the Netherlands who go forward to the final.

England's bronze medal match, their first since 2004, takes place at 2:30pm BST on Saturday.

Visit the European Hockey Federation's website here.

Visit the official tournament website for the U21 women's EuroHockey Junior Nations Championships here.

Visit the official tournament website for the U21 men's EuroHockey Junior Nations Championships here.