Buckingham beaten in semis after winning final league game

Kitty Higgins and Alex Naughalty celebrate Buckingham's goal against Surbiton. Picture by Chris Hobson.

Kitty Higgins and Alex Naughalty celebrate Buckingham's goal against Surbiton. Picture by Chris Hobson.

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Conference West champions Buckingham completed their league campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Gloucester on Saturday.

Despite not being at their best, Buckingham dominated from the outset and eased to victory thanks to goals from Jess Bloom, Zoe Shipperley and Jo Ellis. Following the match, Buckingham were presented with the Investec West Conference Title for the fourth year in succession.

The celebrations were short-lived, however, as on Sunday Buckingham were beaten 5-1 by Premier Division side Surbiton in the semi-finals of the Investec Cup.

Against a side containing no less than five current Great Britain players, Buckingham got off to the worst possible start when a cheap turnover in their own defensive end gifted the visitors and opportunity and although the initial chance seemed to have been blocked, a fortuitous deflection founds its way to a Surbiton attacker who made no mistake from close range.

Buckingham’s response was immediate, Jess Bloom stole the ball and fired a fierce shot, only to see it spectacularly saved by the visitors goalkeeper just a minute later.

Surbiton were showing their class with crisp passing and ball handling but Buckingham remained a threat and looked incisive every time they went forward.

The visitors extended their lead in the 13th minute, at their second penalty corner, when an unfortunate deflection resulted in the ball finding its way into the net.

Once again the Buckingham response was immediate. A fine passing move saw Bloom unleash a reverse stick shot that was heading for the bottom corner, only for the goalkeeper to produce another fine save.

Surbiton continued to have the better of possession and territory with Anna Searle making some good saves in Buckingham’s goal but the home side remained a constant threat.

The Second period began much the same as the first with Surbiton enjoying more possession and territory but neither side created any chances in the opening 10 minutes.

A momentary lapse from Buckingham was punished when a free hit was awarded and Surbiton showed their class taking it quickly and a couple of passes later the ball was in the back of the net.

The home side finally for their reward for some good play with Alex Naughalty scoring a flick from Buckingham’s fifth penalty corner. Buckingham came close to scoring from open play and another penalty corner but could not reduce the deficit.

The visitors rubbed salt into the wound with two minutes to go when they were awarded a highly dubious penalty corner which they converted. Although the scoreline was frustrating for Buckingham and flattered Surbiton, the visitors had shown their class and were the better side. Buckingham had shown, however, that they are able to compete with the best sides in the country.

This weekend they take on Conference North winners Brooklands in their first play-off game at Cannock Hockey Club.