Buckingham set for crunch double-header in Manchester

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The fate of Buckingham’s season rests on a crunch league and cup double-header in Manchester this weekend.

On Saturday, Buckingham take on direct rivals Bowdon knowing anything less than three points would confirm their relegation from the Investec Premier Division.

A win, on the other hand, would take it down to the final day of the season when Buckingham face East Grinstead.

Following Saturday’s game, Buckingham then face another Manchester side, Brooklands, in the semi-final of the Investec National Cup.

All this comes after Buckingham were beaten 3-2 at home by title-chasing Canterbury last weekend.

“I was really proud of the performance,” said coach Zak Jones on despite the result.

“We played really well and once again, the girls showed fantastic character and resilience to deal with everything that was thrown at them during the course of the game.

“Whilst we were hugely disappointed not to get something from the game, our situation has not changed and we still need at least four points from our final two games.

“We have a must win game in Manchester against Bowdon on Saturday, and added to that, we have a cup semi-final against Manchester’s other side Brooklands on Sunday.

“It’s a pretty big weekend all round but we’re all really looking forward to the challenge an opportunity it presents.”

In a fast-pace opening quarter against Canterbury, Buckingham keeper Bella Williamson was called on to make a couple of important interventions but it was the home side who created the clearest opportunity on 14 minutes

Leanne Grimsley’s pass beat the keeper, only for a timely defensive interception to prevent Phoebe Richards from scoring in an empty net.

Unfortunately, from the very next play, the visitors countered straight back up to the other end and opened the scoring from close range.

Buckingham’s response was immediate, right from the push back Katrina Nicholson broke through and earned a penalty corner. with the aid of a deflection, from the resulting strike, captain Zoe Shipperley levelled things.

The game remained end-to-end as Izzy Peskett came close to giving Buckingham the lead with a fine run down the baseline but her effort was saved and Amie Hone forced a fine stop from the Canterbury goalkeeper five minutes later.

However, once again, luck was not with the home side, as a couple of marginal calls went against them. The first led to a penalty corner and the second to a re-award and although Williamson made the initial save, the ball fell kindly at the feet of a visiting attacker who made no mistake with just five minutes remaining in the half.

Things got worse for the home side immediately after the restart when they conceded a soft goal.

Once again their riposte was swift, though, as the hosts continued to create openings, and after a period of sustained pressure, they deservedly reduced the deficit through fine individual goal from Hone.

With the outstanding player of the match Kitty Higgins at the heart of everything Buckingham did well, the side continued to push for an equaliser in what time remained.

However, despite a couple of penalty corners and near misses, they just could not get back on level terms before the final whistle.