Jones thrilled after Buckingham claim three priceless points

Katrina Nicholson in possession
Katrina Nicholson in possession

Buckingham claimed three hugely valuable points on their return to league action this week – their first victory of the season.

First half goals from Abbie Brant and Katrina Nicholson set Buckingham on their way to victory and although opponents Reading rallied late on, the visitors survived a tense finish to revive their hopes of avoiding relegation in the Investec Premier Division.

“Saturday’s result was a fantastic way to start to the second half of the season,” said coach Zak Jones afterwards.

“But what was even more pleasing than the result itself, was the manner and quality of the performance. I was delighted with the intensity and energy we brought on in defence and our passing accuracy and tempo in attack was the best we have produced to date.

“The group are under no illusions as to the task we have ahead of us if we are to retain our Premier League status, however we are all determined to ensure that we give it everything both on and if the field in order to give ourselves the best possible chance of achieving our objective.

“We have a huge amount of unity, spirit and resilience within the squad and finally being able to select from a fit squad is another big positive.

“It was great to finally get a win on the board, but we know that it is only the first step on our journey. We will keep our feet firmly on the ground and will work hard to ensure that we build and continue to improve on this performance.”

This game, the first of 2016, was always going to be a key fixture in both teams’ respective seasons and Buckingham went into it with confidence having been buoyed by the return of Nicholson from a long-term ACL injury while Lauren Thomas also started having returned from America alongside Australian import Izzy Peskett, who has stepped up from the second team.

They were missing captain Zoe Shipperley, who was on international duty for Great Britain, but Buckingham made a bright start when Nicholson sliced through the home defence in the opening minute and was only denied by a well-timed last-ditch tackle.

The visitors continued to carve out chances, Brant and Phoebe Richards both coming close, and the first goal duly arrived when, on 20 minutes, Brant lofted an an exquisite finish over the onrushing goalkeeper after a fine passing move down the right.

Reading’s keeper then made a superb save from a Thomas penalty corner strike to deny Buckingham a second, but a few minutes later, Nicholson fired in to double the visitors’ lead on 27 minutes.

Despite continuing to have the better of the exchanges, Buckingham could not extend their lead further and went into half-time two goals ahead.

Buckingham began the second half like they did the first but could not capitalise on a number of good scoring opportunities and it was the home side who reduced the deficit with a powerful penalty corner strike just seven minutes into the second half.

This setback failed to throw Buckingham off their stride, though, and the visitors continued to play fast, flowing, attacking hockey.

However, once again they could not take advantage of their chances and as a result, the final ten minutes because a nervy affair as Buckingham clung to their slender lead.

In the end, the side were forced to defend a penalty corner from the last play of the game but deservedly left Reading with a hugely valuable three points.

Buckingham will be hoping to make it back-to-back wins when they host fifth-placed Clifton this weekend.