Buckingham face relegation six-pointer after Clifton defeat

Amie Hone
Amie Hone

Buckingham face a must-win relegation six-pointer this weekend when they travel to Bowdon Hightown in the Investec Premier Division.

With Beeston looking certain to finish bottom, the battle to avoid the relegation play-off spot is a straight fight between Buckingham and Bowdon, with the former currently lying one point better off.

Last weekend, Buckingham were beaten 2-1 at home to second-placed Clifton and with only three games now remaining, this weekend’s clash will go a long way to deciding Buckingham’s fate in their maiden season in the top tier of English women’s hockey.

Speaking after his side’s defeat to Clifton, head coach Zak Jones said: “The group are obviously massively disappointed by the result, especially as we came so close.

“However, it was a fantastic performance, full of quality and character, and one where the girls didn’t take a backward step.

“They more than matched the second best side in the country, and I believe deserved to get something from the game.

“Once again, attention to detail in crucial areas proved the difference. They scored two from three of their penalty corners, whereas we were none from three and missed a stroke.

“As always at this level, it comes down to fine margins, but I am confident that if we continue to perform like that in our remaining three matches, we will get our just rewards.”

Both sides made a strong start to Saturday’s encounter with home keeper Anna Searle denying the visitors an early opportunity, while at the other end, Morag McLellan’s shot was well saved and from the resulting corner, Buckingham again came close, only a diving touch from a Clifton defender prevented a certain goal.

The hosts remained on the front foot and continued to create opportunities but they were three times thwarted by the Clifton goalkeeper, who denied both Katrina Nicholson and Zoe Shipperley.

It was then Clifton’s turn to enjoy a spell on top and they spurned a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring, , but made amends moments later when Great Britain international Jo Leigh scrambled the ball home from their first penalty corner.

Two minutes into the second half, things went from bad to worse for Buckingham when the visitors scored a second from a well-worked move.

Buckingham responded immediately, however, and got themselves right back into the match when some fine play from the outstanding Nicholson resulted in Amie Hone forcing the ball home from close-range.

The game continued to be a high paced, end-to-end affair with the visitors struggling to contain a rampant Nicholson, who earned her side a penalty stroke after another searing run on 46 minutes

Unfortunately, Bloom’s flick went wide and although Buckingham continued to battle hard for the remainder of the contest, they could not force the equaliser despite creating a number of good openings.