Buckingham take huge step towards title

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Buckingham LHC took a huge step towards the Conference West title with back-to-back wins over fellow promotion challengers Slough and local rivals Oxford Hawks.

On Saturday, Buckingham visited leaders Slough, who sat two points ahead previous to kick-off, and it was the visitors who began the brighter as Jess Bloom forced a fine save from the home goalkeeper while Leanne Grimsley almost touched in a Jo Ellis cross.

Buckingham enjoyed more possession and territory in the opening exchanges, but both teams had their chances with Anna Searle having to be alert in the visiting goal, before Buckingham gained the ascendency, earning a series of penalty corners – and the pressure told when Aly Billington guided the ball into the net to give Buckingham a slim but deserved half-time advantage.

Having been the better side for the majority of the first period, Buckingham hoped to press home their advantage in the second period but they were forced onto the back foot as Slough applied pressure.

However, Buckingham defended superbly, with goalkeeper Searle, defender Beth Stainsby and Player of the Match Frankie Scott all putting in outstanding performances to repel the home side’s attacks as the visitors dug deep under the immense Slough pressure to hold out and record a potentially decisive victory in the title race.

Buckingham then looked to consolidate their position at the top when they entertained local rivals Oxford on Sunday.

Despite having fitness concerns following their exploits from Saturday, Buckingham made a strong start to race into a 3-0 half-time lead with Katrina Nicholson, Jo Ellis and Zoe Shipperley on target.

The home side then began the second half as they had in the first, winning constant turnover ball as they relentlessly pressured their visitors into numerous mistakes, but only Fiona Farley was able to find the net following some quick interplay between Tracy Jones and Alex Naughalty.

Four points clear with three games to go, Buckingham face yet another critical encounter this week as they take on third-placed Swansea.