Report and pictures: Champions Buckingham sign off regular season in fitting style

CHAMPIONS: Buckingham celebrate their title success. Pictures: Jake McNulty
CHAMPIONS: Buckingham celebrate their title success. Pictures: Jake McNulty

Champions Buckingham Ladies Hockey Club ended the regular season in fitting style on Saturday when thrashing Firebrands 10-1 and picking up the Conference West title.

The team wrapped up top spot last weekend but they were in no mood to ease off the gas against Firebrands at Akeley Wood School when racing to an emphatic victory, their 12th in a row, to cement their title as the best team in the Investec Conference West.

Lauren Thomas fires in the opener

Lauren Thomas fires in the opener

Not only did Buckingham finish five points clear at the top, they also ended the season with the meanest defence across all leagues, conceding just nine goals, while boasting the best overall record with 16 wins, one draw and one defeat.

They now have a week off before meeting Premier League outfit Beeston on April 9 in the first of three play-offs games, followed by matches against fellow Conference champions Brooklands (April 22) and Wimbledon (April 23) at the England Hockey Finals held at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre in Olympic Park.

And Buckingham will go into those crucial games in high spirits following Saturday’s 10-1 demolition of Firebrands.

“I was delighted with both the performance and the result,” said head coach Zak Jones. “We were relentless and played with real quality, especially in the 20-minute spell just after half-time.

Andrew Marson, England Hockey Official, presents the League Winner's Trophy to Buckingham captain Zoe Shipperley

Andrew Marson, England Hockey Official, presents the League Winner's Trophy to Buckingham captain Zoe Shipperley

“It would have been very easy for the squad to turn up and go through the motions, but the way the girls approached the game and the intent and purpose with which we played, was a really positive indicator of the mentality within the group.

“Despite missing three key players and losing another to what looks to be a long-term injury, we would not be distracted from our principles or processes and as a result, finished the season in style.

“The group rightly enjoyed Saturday and the celebrations that came with it and will now take a well earned week off before we begin preparations for the playoffs in earnest.”

Despite missing Katrina Nicholson, Leanne Grimsley and Kirsty Freshwater and also losing midfield player Elin Galvin with what looked to be a serious ankle injury, Buckingham were in ruthless mood from the off on Saturday.

Team huddle

Team huddle

Lauren Thomas opened the scoring from a penalty corner, Abbie Brant added a second and Alice Rolfe made it 3-0 at half-time before the hosts ran riot in the second-half with Phoebe Richards’ hat-trick adding to goals from Lottie Porter, Alex Naughalty, Tash James and Thomas.

Lottie Porter

Lottie Porter

Head coach Zak Jones

Head coach Zak Jones