Buckingham win through in cup but league frustrations grow

Buckingham's Lottie Porter
Buckingham's Lottie Porter

Buckingham set aside their league struggles when they overcame Reading in the second round of the Investec Women’s Cup on Sunday.

The cup fixture was a welcome release from the pressures of league hockey, with Buckingham on just one point from seven Investec Premier Division matches this season, as they welcomed fellow strugglers Reading to Stowe.

Without captain Zoe Shipperley, who was on GB International duty playing against the USA, the hosts began well and moved the ball with quality in a fast-paced, open game.

It was youngster Georgie Holme who opened the scoring from close range on nine minutes following some good play by Australian import Izzy Peskett and Phoebe Richards, and Buckingham remained in the ascendency with Holme volleying home her second after a fine run by Richards.

Starting the second half two ahead, Buckingham came out on top but then had to weather a brief Reading storm with the visitors pulling a goal back, however some fine individual play from Abbie Brant with 12 minutes remaining saw Player of the Match Peskett ease the nerves with a fine, diving back-hand finish.

Reading continued to make a fight of it with home keeper Bella Williamson forced into a some smart saves to ensure Buckingham’s spot in the next round, where they will face another home tie against Conference East side Hampstead & Westminster on November 8.

The previous day, Buckingham made the long trip to second-placed Cantebury in a league match following two frustrating narrow defeats to Birmingham Uni and Clifton.

With a debut for Australian import Liz Flack and having rested well overnight in their hotel, Buckingham started brightly, passing the ball well in the opening ten minutes.

However, after such a promising start, a cheap turnover gifted the home side the ball and they capitalised with a sharp deflected finish to take the lead on 17 minutes.

But Buckingham fought back valiantly and levelled matters 12 minutes later when good play from Alex Naughalty found Richards, who finished well with a diving effort.

The visitors’ jubilation was short-lived, though, as Canterbury scrambled home a second to lead 2-1 at half-time before a third goal from the home side’s Great Britain international Suzannah Townsend ensured victory.

The result leaves Buckingham second from bottom in the Premier Division.

Head coach Zak Jones said: “It has been a frustrating few weeks where we have been so close to that elusive first league win but haven’t quite managed to get over the line.

“We put in a really good first half performance on Saturday but didn’t look after the ball in the second period and as a result a very high quality and experienced Canterbury outfit totally dominated both possession and territory.

“However, I was hugely impressed with our resilience and response on Sunday. We produced a very good performance, played good attacking hockey and it was great to be back to winning ways.

“We have a break this week but will be working really hard in training over the next two weeks to ensure that we maintain this momentum when we return to both league and cup action on November 7 and 8.”

In other news, Zak Jones has been named Performance Coach of the Year at the 2015 Wales Hockey awards evening.

He said: “I’m honoured to win this award. It feels strange to accept this as an individual as I have a great support team behind me and the players are a great bunch to work with.”

Zak has coached the senior men’s Welsh squad for over five years. Most recently, he led the team to European gold in Division III, along with promotion to the ‘B’ Division of European Hockey.

Jones added: “This award is down to the players and support staff. It’s really great to win but it’s for the team as a whole, not just me - they’re the ones who do all of the work.”