Zak Jones was delighted with his side’s performance after Buckingham made the ideal start to their play-off campaign with a nervy but fully deserved 4-3 victory against East Grinstead.
Having finished second bottom in the Investec Premier Division, Buckingham must now compete in the end-of-season play-offs against three other sides with the top two playing in next year’s Premier Division.
And Buckingham gave their top two chances a much-needed boost with Saturday’s victory against East Conference champions Grinstead.
Jones said afterwards: “It was a very pleasing performance especially given the frustrations and disappointments of the last few weeks.
“The girls played with a real, pace tempo and intensity that East Grinstead struggled to match which is no doubt a result of competing in the Premier League all year and we passed the ball exceptionally well in a real team performance.
“I was a little disappointed that it was not more comfortable, especially when you consider we were 3-0 and 4-1 up, but you have to give Grinstead credit as they refused to give up.
“It was also a little bit frustrating to concede some pretty soft goals and this is an area we must look to improve upon for the remaining two games, however this should not detract from what was a fantastic performance and it was great to be back scoring goals!”
Buckingham made a lightning quick start on Saturday, playing with real attacking intent and purpose, and a superb passing move and run down the right by Great Britain international Morag McLellan resulted in Jess Bloom firing home the opener on just four minutes.
With Buckingham dominant in the opening exchanges, a cheap turnover gave East Grinstead’s Great Britain international Sophie Bray their first opportunity a few minutes later, but Anna Searle was alert to the danger, making a fine double save.
Buckingham were in unstoppable form going forward, and it was not long before they extended their lead - captain Zoe Shipperley firing home from Buckingham’s first penalty corner in the 14th minute
“It was a fantastic performance and it’s great to be back scoring goals!”Zak Jones
Buckingham continued to pass with the quality, pace and tempo of a Premier League side that East Grinstead struggled to match and Leanne Grimsley made it 3-0 just eight minutes later as she rifled in a rebound after a blistering run from outstanding player of the match Katrina Nicholson.
Buckingham continued to create openings but found EG’s Great Britain goalkeeper in fine form to deny them a fourth.
With just two minutes to go until the break, a lapse in concentration resulted in EG’s first penalty corner and despite the first attempt being blocked, they scored with a neat deflection from the re-award to give themselves a lifeline and take the score to 3-1 at half-time.
Buckingham immediately picked up where they had left off at the start of the second half, moving the ball with quality and causing problems for the Grinstead defence and it was not long before they extended their lead further, with Kitty Higgins deflecting a well-rehearsed penalty corner routine into the roof of the net to make the score 4-1.
However, from the restart a lapse in concentration gifted EG their third penalty corner of the game. The initial strike deflected off number one runner Bloom into the net to take the score to 4-2.
Despite Buckingham having the better of the next 20 minutes, they could not extend the lead further as East Grinstead showed why they were Conference Champions. They refused to give up and when Buckingham conceded a soft goal to make the score 4-3 with just two minutes to go, the nerves began to jangle with EG having a couple of half chances before the final whistle was blown, much to the relief of the Buckingham players.
With Slough beating Wakefield 3-0 in the earlier match, Buckingham currently sit in second place on goal difference. The final two play-off matches are on the weekend of April 18-19 at Lee Valley Hockey centre in Olympic Park in London where Buckingham will face Wakefield on Saturday before taking on Slough the following day.