Jones wins top coach award as Buckingham switch focus to indoor season

Zak Jones. Picture by Chris Hobson
Zak Jones. Picture by Chris Hobson

Buckingham Hockey Club head coach Zak Jones says his side have switched their focus to gaining promotion to the indoor Premier League ahead of the winter break.

Buckingham ended the first half of their Investec Premier League campaign with a 1-0 loss to Leicester on Saturday.

Jones said afterwards: “I know it’s an old cliché but it really was a game of two halves.

“The match could have been over by half-time but once again, the girls showed immense resilience and character to still be in the game. In the second half, we created the better opportunities but were unable to finish them off.

“Though we are disappointed to lose, we remain in control of our own destiny when the league resumes in February.

“The girls will be working hard on the physical aspects of their training over the Christmas period, but they are also looking forward to a break from the pressures of the outdoor competition, with our focus switching to indoor and the aim of gaining promotion to the indoor Premier League.”

In their final Premier League match before the winter break, Buckingham were on the back foot from kick-off at Leicester with the home side pressing well and dominating the opening exchanges.

The visitors struggled to make any headway and it came as no surprise when Leicester took a deserved lead on 16 minutes following a goalmouth scramble.

The game continued in the same vein, with the hosts firmly in control, and Buckingham were fortunate to only trail by one at half-time, which was largely thanks to some fine ‘keeping from the in-form Anna Searle in the away goal.

A tactical change at the break saw Buckingham enjoy more of the ball in the second period and with captain and Player of the Match Kitty Higgins outstanding in midfield, the visitors created a number of good scoring opportunities.

At one point, the umpire seemed to have awarded Buckingham a penalty stroke, only to controversially downgrade it to a penalty corner, from which they failed to score.

Despite Katrina Nicholson and Jaz Needham both having great opportunities, neither could bring the scores level and Buckingham were forced to weather a late storm from the home side in the final few minutes before the game ended 1-0 in Leicester’s favour.

Despite the defeat, Buckingham will go into the winter break outside the relegation zone in eighth place.

Jones, meanwhile, has been named Performance Coach of the Year 2014 at the Bucks & MK Sports Awards that were held last Friday.

When he joined the club 15 years ago, Buckingham had only one ladies team who were competing 11 leagues below where they do today and no junior section.

Now, the club has four ladies teams and a thriving junior section of 140 members and Zak has been instrumental in that transformation.

Most notably, he has steered the first team to 11 promotions and to the top tier of English hockey as well as developing a number of playings into international level, both at junior and senior level.

The club’s captain, Zoe Shipperley, epitomises the club’s rise. She joined the club at 13 years of age and was coached by Zak at both school and club. She is now a member of the Great Britain and England programme.