England Hockey National Premier League
Clifton Robinsons HC 2-4 Holcombe HC
Clifton Robinsons HC: Hannah Coulson, Joanna Leigh
Holcombe HC: Sarah Jones, Leah Wilkinson, Emily Maguire, Lucy Wood
Coombe Dingle Sports Complex, Bristol
After last weekend’s postponed fixture at East Grinstead, Holcombe ladies faced a similar battle at the top end of the table as they travelled to third place Clifton Robinsons.
With the Bristol side sitting just 1-point ahead of Holcombe, Kevin Johnson’s squad knew that a positive result on the road was crucial to maintaining pace at the top of the Premier League.
Clifton Robinson’s had enjoyed a fantastic start to the 2016/17 season that saw them occupy third spot in the Investec Premier League as they challenged for a playoff spot at Lee Valley in England Hockey’s showcase season finale.
Fresh from their considerable journey across from Kent however, it was the visitors that started the brighter.
An energetic opening period for Holcombe was rewarded inside 3 minutes with a goal from Sarah Jones. Captain Steph Elliott’s through ball found Leigh Maasdorp in the Clifton circle who managed to lay the ball off to Jones who finished from close range.
With Clifton Robinsons receiving the wake-up call that was handed to them in the early exchanges, the game levelled out with both sides showing good attacking promise.
18 minutes in however and the home side were back on level terms.
After an initial penalty corner broke down at the top of the circle, the ball was slipped to Hannah Coulson who fired the ball goal wards and in off the diving Aurora Mears’ glove in the Holcombe goal.
If drawing level was a relief for the home side, it was short lived as Holcombe immediately wrestled back the ascendency. A renewed sense of urgency from the Kent side led to them earning a penalty corner of their own just 3 minutes later. A well-executed move led to vice-captain Leah Wilkinson getting the vital touch to restore the 1 goal lead.
With time drifting towards the interval, Clifton found themselves back on level terms through Great Britain International Joanna Leigh. Another penalty corner for the home side led to another straight strike from the top of the circle. A lifted hit towards goal struck the face of Leigh’s stick and flew past the stranded Mears’ to the delight of the increasingly vocal home crowd.
With the sides level at 2-2 going into the second period, any hopes of a closely fought contest were largely quashed inside the opening few minutes. Holcombe again started the stronger and were rewarded for their efforts 4 minutes in through Emily Maguire. Another penalty corner for Holcombe was clinically converted by Maguire as Holcombe regained the lead for a third time in the contest.
As the half wore on, Holcombe’s defence held firm and on 46 minutes they finally earned the cushion they had been searching for. A well worked move led to Nic White unleashing a shot from the top of the circle and Lucy Wood was low in front of goal to deflect in from close range to extend the advantage for the visitors.
The renewed confidence that inevitably accompanies a goal away from home stayed with Holcombe throughout the rest of the game until the final exchanges. With the points almost secure, Holcombe were content to sit deeper with Clifton Robinsons pushing desperately for a way back into the contest.
A disallowed goal for having struck the foot of a Clifton player led to an increasing air of frustration around Coombe Dingle Sports Complex as Holcombe came away with all 3 points to leapfrog their hosts into third place in the league with an additional game in hand.
Holcombe forward Leigh Maasdorp was pleased with her sides’ performance; “I thought it was a really tough, competitive game of hockey. We knew how important it was to come away with three points not only in the context of the league but also for our confidence going into a tough double-header next weekend.”
Next weekend, Holcombe face a struggling Bowdon side at home on Saturday before travelling to second-placed East Grinstead on Sunday. They do so without Ellie Watton (GB) and Erin Hunter (SA), both of whom travel to South Africa to face off as Great Britain travel for a training camp.
Image Credit: SmifSports