England: Holcombe Let Points Slip in Slough

Holcombe missed their opportunity to go three points clear of promotion rivals Barnes on Saturday afternoon as Nick Bandurak’s side drew 1-1 with fifth-placed Slough at Upton Court Road.

Deanna Ritchie gave Holcombe the lead four minutes before half-time but it took just four minutes after that break for the hosts to equalise through Laura Bailey.

With league leaders – and Sunday’s opponents – Surbiton 2s unable to be promoted, it is likely between Holcombe and Barnes to win promotion by finishing second, with Holcs now a point clear of Barnes with a game-in-hand after the London side lost 2-0 at Harleston Magpies on Saturday.

Bandurak’s side were looking for a fourth straight Division One South victory having beaten Wimbledon 2s, Southgate and Sevenoaks in their last three.

In a quiet first quarter, the only two chances came from penalty corners – the hosts seeing a slip routine charged down by Holcombe’s defence before Phoebe Steele – who had three goals in her last two appearances heading into Saturday’s match – drag-flicked narrowly wide at the other end.

Slough defended another corner well as Holcombe looked to shift up a gear early on in the second quarter, though there was certainly an argument that the foul on Ritchie leading to the corner could have been given as a penalty stroke.

A scrappy period followed as both teams looked to gain more control, Holcombe gaining territory but unable to produce those final passes and touches until a few minutes before half-time, a neat move down the right leading to the opening goal.

The ball fell to Bethan Hodges in the circle, her shot was deflected away but Ritchie was on hand to finish from close range for her 10th league goal of the season and 11th in all competitions.

Holcs defended two more penalty corners well before the end of the half, heading into the break with their lead intact.

Early on in the third period, Holcombe had a great opportunity to double their advantage. Emma Bandurak played a brilliant long ball into Ritchie, who found Marian Ledesma in the circle, the latter fouled as she tried to round the goalkeeper – penalty stroke given.

Bandurak stepped up but saw an effort well-saved by Asha Tranquille-Day.

Soon after, Slough’s equaliser came through Bailey. She worked space brilliantly at the edge of the circle with some great stick skills, before unleashing a powerful strike into the bottom corner past Tilly Woodhead to level the scores.

Holcombe’s response in possession was fairly positive but Anna Baker did squander a great chance to complete a quick-fire turnaround for the hosts, hitting an awkward effort off-target from just a few yards out.

Slough then earned another penalty corner with Woodhead superbly saving three times at the set piece before a penalty stroke was awarded.

Baker stepped up but Woodhead made another brilliant save, diving to her right and reaching up to stop the hosts from taking the lead.

Bandurak and Hattie Jones came close to restoring Holcombe’s lead from a penalty corner of their own but both were denied.

Holcombe’s attempts to build late pressure were generally rebuffed, with opportunities limited to two penalty corners which were well-defended in the final period. Bandurak’s side struggled to create any open play chances late on and had to settle for a point in the first match of two this weekend.

Holcombe face Surbiton 2s on Sunday (1:30pm) at Holcombe Park – entry is free and updates will be provided across our social media channels.

Lucas Ball

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