Buckingham set for title-decider after hitting five past Exe

Captain Zoe Shipperley marked her return from GB duty with a goal
Captain Zoe Shipperley marked her return from GB duty with a goal

Buckingham LHC’s first team are set for a pivotal double-header this weekend in their pursuit for promotion to the Investec Premier Division.

Buckingham first face a trip to Conference West leaders Slough tomorrow, Saturday, for a potentially title-deciding encounter before they host local rivals Oxford Hawks at Stowe School on Sunday.

The Stowe-based side are currently second in the table, two points behind Slough with a game in hand, after they thrashed bottom of the table Exe 5-0 last weekend.

Boosted by the return of captain Zoe Shipperley from Great Britain duty, Buckingham dominated from kick-off, creating a number of opportunities but a combination of resolute defending and sloppy finishing kept the scores level, and this was to prove the theme of the first half.

Despite controlling both territory and possession, Buckingham had to wait until a minute from half-time to break the deadlock. A swift counter-attack involving Tracy Jones and Katrina Nicholson left Jess Bloom one-on-one with the goalkeeper and despite initially taking the ball wide, she made no mistake to rifle in the opener.

The hosts resumed on the offensive after the break, playing with pace and intensity, which was rewarded within 30 seconds of the restart when Bloom claimed her second after a neat reverse stick deflection high into the visitors net.

Four minutes later, Shipperley marked her return with a goal as her fiercely-struck shot was deflected into the net by a defender, before Jo Ellis made it 4-0 with a reverse stick strike and just three minutes later, a free-flowing passing move involving Ellis and Anita Bazini saw Nicholson add a fifth from close range.

With only 10 minutes gone in the second period, it seemed Buckingham were on course to extend their winning margin, but once again a mix of good defending and wayward finishing meant the home side were unable to add to their tally, although they had already done enough to seal victory and go within two points of leaders Slough.

The top two teams face each other at 1pm tomorrow.