Buckingham suffer double league and cup blow

Katrina Nicholson. Picture by Jake McNulty
Katrina Nicholson. Picture by Jake McNulty

Buckingham suffered double disappointment at the weekend when Saturday’s league loss to table-topping Surbiton was followed by a penalty shootout defeat in the quarter-finals of the Investec Cup.

Against the current national champions and Investec Premier Division leaders, Buckingham produced a battling display and had their chances to cause an upset, but Surbiton ran out 3-1 winners to stay top and keep Buckingham in the bottom two.

Head coach Zak Jones said afterwards: “I was really pleased with the performance against a top quality outfit packed with internationals.

“We competed throughout and while they had more possession and territory during the course of the game, we showed fantastic organisation, discipline and resilience on defence and were in the game for the full 70 minutes.

“That fight, desire, commitment and level of performance is something we must look to maintain in the coming weeks.”

Buckingham began well with Leanne Grimsley unable to convert a one-on-one chance inside two minutes, but this seemed to spark the visitors into life as home goalkeeper Anna Searle had to be at her best to deny England international Gisele Ainsley.

Clear-cut chances were at a premium in a tight opening half as Surbiton enjoyed more possession while Buckingham showed great resilience in defence, but the visitors eventually broke through when Georgie Twigg was on hand to give her side a 1-0 lead at the break.

The second half began with the same high intensity as the first and again it was Buckingham who had the first real opportunity through Amie Hone, but her shot was blocked and the visitors went up the other end and doubled their lead.

The home side came battling back, however, and some fine play led to a penalty corner, from which captain Zoe Shipperley fired home an unstoppable strike into the bottom corner to give her side a lifeline.

The goal seemed to rattle the league leaders as Buckingham enjoyed their best spell of the match, but they were unable to take advantage and victory was secured by Surbiton with a third goal.

The following day, Buckingham travelled to Conference North side Loughborough for the quarter-finals of the Investec Cup.

It was always going to be a tall order for a Buckingham side without their Great Britain internationals and the visitors struggled from the start as both sides created very little in the way of goalscoring chances in a goalless first half.

The second period followed a similar pattern and the match seemed destined to finish 0-0 but six minutes from full-time, some excellent Buckingham play down the right side from Grimsley and Katrina Nicholson culminated in Jess Bloom volleying the ball high into the net for what seemed to be the winner.

The home side responded by throwing everything they had at Buckingham and with just seconds remaining, they snatched an equaliser to force a penalty stroke shootout.

Loughborough were ruthlessly clinical in the shootout as they scored their first four strokes while Buckingham missed two of their first three to crash out of the competition.

Speaking afterwards, Jones said: “This was a frustrating result and performance where we struggled to put any meaningful phases of play together with the ball.

“Once again we gave up very few opportunities on defence and seemed to have done enough to get the result with just minutes to play.

“However, some poor game management allowed them to equalise and this is something we will have to learn to manage better as it could be an important factor in our final league matches.

“While it is disappointing to have been knocked out as we have a proud record of having made the semi-finals for the last five years, it is not the end of the world as it allows us to focus all our efforts on maintaining our Premier League status.”

Buckingham face a must-win match this weekend when they travel to bottom side Beeston, who are yet to win a game this season.