Women’s Cup Final – Result
Bowdon Hightown 2 (1)
Fay Nash 19 (F)
Jo Ellis 42 (F)
Reading 1 (0)
Becky Odlin 38 (PC)
England and Great Britain international Jo Ellis was the Bowdon Hightown heroine as her second half goal secured them an impressive domestic treble at Highfields Hockey Centre in Nottingham. On the same afternoon as their North West colleagues Manchester United secured football’s Premier League, Bowdon Hightown survived a late Reading onslaught to add a third piece of silverware to the cabinet at South Downs Road.
In a first half of few clear cut chances the Premier Division champions were content to hold possession, inviting Reading forward, and it was the Cup Final debutants from Berkshire that threatened first through a seventh minute penalty corner, which ultimately came to nothing.
The Cheshire favourites broke the deadlock with a deflected goal in the 19th minute after Sally Walton’s free hit found Fay Nash’s stick and her touch took the ball beyond Reading goalkeeper Lucy Stevenson.
With much of the play contained in the midfield the best chance in what remained of the first half fell to Nash again, but with her back to goal she fired wide.
Just three minutes into the second half Reading temporarily silenced the vocal Bowdon Hightown supporters with a deflected equaliser; Becky Odlin adding the final touch to the drilled penalty corner. It did not take long though for those Bowdon Hightown fans to find their voices again as a diving Jo Ellis met a perfect cross to deflect high into the net from close range to make it 2-1.
Bowdon Hightown goalkeeper Kirsty Mackay was called into action soon after, reacting well to clear Liana Smith’s through ball with Emily Malden bearing down on goal.
The double champions failed to convert a series of penalty corners midway through the second half with Sally Walton’s second low flicked effort deflected wide by a defender’s stick.
By now, Reading were defending well, keeping the pressing Bowdon Hightown at bay although goalkeeper Lucy Stevenson was called into action on one occasion, reacting acrobatically to tip the ball over the bar after mesmeric skill from Ellis.
With five minutes remaining and sensing a shock equaliser Reading pushed up the pitch, much to the delight of their fans at the Bowdon Hightown end. Their creativity was beginning to threaten Bowdon Hightown, who resorted to defending in numbers against the onrushing Berkshire ladies.
In the final minute of the game Reading’s hard work looked like it might have paid off as a cross found its way to an unmarked Claire Kerr on the back post. Unfortunately for Kerr, she came face to face with goalkeeper Kirsty Mackay who dropped down quickly to smother the ball at Kerr’s feet.
Seconds later the full time hooter went, signalling ecstatic Bowdon Hightown celebrations – the domestic treble secure. For their part, Reading will return to Sonning Lane with their heads held high, safe in the knowledge they have what it takes to compete against the best in the premier division next season.
Speaking after the game, match winner Jo Ellis said, “We go down in history really. To win three trophies...I don’t think any team has done that before. We had our hearts set on winning something in the Europeans but unfortunately we just fell short there. It’s been a great season for us, all the girls have worked really hard and we deserve it!
“To be honest there wasn’t alot in it. They have had a fantastic season and will be coming up to the premier division next year and I think they will do well. They work well as a unit; there are no key individuals, it’s a nice team that they have got there and they will be a struggle to beat next season.”
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS