Leicester* 2 (1)
Rebecca Herbert 17,32 (F,F)
Slough 2 (1)
Jane Smith 4 (F)
Alex Scott 37 (PC)
*Leicester win 2-1 on penalty strokes.
A thrilling and dramatic women’s National Indoor Hockey Championships final came down to a nail biting penalty stroke shoot out after Alex Scott cancelled out the 2-1 lead that Rebecca Herbert had given Leicester with fewer than ten minutes remaining. With the crowd on the edge of their seats and the Sky Sports cameras in attendance both goalkeepers pulled off saves before Scott missed her second penalty of the match to hand victory to the women in orange.
Leicester and Slough lined up having seen off Canterbury and the 2009 Champions Bowdon Hightown in Saturday’s semi finals with Leicester looking to secure a first national indoor title since 1978 and Slough aiming to make it 14 National Indoor Hockey Championships, avenging the painful memory of their 2009 defeat in Birmingham.
There were early chances in the opening minute for both sides as first Beckie Herbert lobbed an effort wide of the post before Ashleigh Ball threaded a pass across the face of the Leicester goal mouth.
Chloe Rogers calmly cleared the danger from Slough’s first penalty corner of the match in the second minute after Jane Smith had squeezed the ball through the feet of Maddie Hinch but Slough did not have to wait long to take the lead and were ahead in the fourth minute. Alex Scott drew Hinch and her defenders to the edge of the circle before squaring to the unmarked Smith who carefully slotted home under the diving body of the recovering Hinch.
Leicester’s first corner moments later came to a disappointing end with the ball trickling off a Leicester stick and off the back line.
Midway through the half Slough’s Nat Bell did well, playing a one-two with herself off the right hand boards to evade Gemma Darrington’s challenge but Hinch proved up to the task, producing a stick save to prevent Bell from crossing the ball.
Leicester called the first time out of the match with nine minutes of the half remaining as coach Andy Fairbrother looked for his side to improve their circle penetration.
Chloe Rogers responded with a break into the circle two minutes later but she was thwarted by Slough’s England goalkeeper Duggan at close range.
The EuroHockey Nations Trophy Goalkeeper of the Tournament then produced an outstanding save with her stick low to her right after Leicester captain Vanessa Hawkins deflected a quick pass on target.
With five minutes of the half remaining Slough thought they had doubled their lead but the umpire’s whistle had already gone for a foul in the build up and from the resulting counter attack Leicester equalised, Rebecca Herbert forcing the ball home from the centre of the circle.
The time out chat had clearly worked for Leicester who came close to taking the lead from a penalty corner a minute later.
Slough won a corner of their own with 19 minutes on the clock, Alex Scott finding the defender’s foot but Hinch was out quickly to smother Jane Smith’s shot from the top.
Half chances for both sides came and went in the opening minutes of the second half. Jane Smith cleared a switched Leicester penalty corner before, at the other end, Smith failed to properly connect on her reverse from the top of the circle.
Hinch was again at the heart of the Leicester defence in the 29th minute making two saves in quick succession, the first from a penalty corner and the second a diving save at the feet of the Slough forward.
With both teams intent of dribbling it was touch of class from Beckie Herbert which broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute as she powerfully flicked a shot from the left hand edge of the circle which Duggan could only help on its way into the top corner of the net.
Ashleigh Ball responded for Slough but her flick across goal went wide and seconds later Herbert passed up the chance for a hat-trick as she fired wide of the far post with just the goalkeeper to beat.
With seven minutes remaining Leicester captain Hawkins saw yellow, reducing her team to five. And with Slough mounting a sustained attack Hannah Smith prevented a certain goal with her body, diving full length and leaving the umpire with no choice but to award a penalty stroke.
Up stepped Alex Scott to take the penalty but Hinch guessed right and saved at a comfortable height with her right hand to keep the score at 2-1.
Scott was not to be stopped though and she restored parity from a controversial penalty corner with three minutes remaining. Hinch was adjudged to have committed an offence, resulting in the corner, and Scott roofed her effort from the top of the circle to make it 2-2.
With 39 minutes on the clock Herbert pushed another effort beyond the far post after driving through the Slough defence.
With the hooter gone, the Sky Sports cameras trained and the crowd on the edge of their seats Leicester won a penalty corner in the dying seconds of the match. Hawkins, back on the pitch from her suspension, pulled the ball out to Rogers at the top of the circle but Becky Duggan’s sliding block cleared the ball to safety and set up a penalty stroke competition to determine the 2010 Women’s National Indoor Hockey Champions.
Leicester’s Kerry Williams and Slough’s Jane Smith both scored their first penalties and when Chloe Rogers’ effort squeezed in off the inside of the right hand post the crowd shrieked in unison. Chloe Strong, who had scored the winning penalty in the Slough’s semi final shoot out with Bowdon Hightown, then saw her flick saved by the left glove of Hinch but Becky Duggan gave Slough hope with a save from Beckie Herbert. Up stepped Alex Scott for Slough’s third flick. Having seen her penalty in normal saved by Hinch to her right, Scott went the other way but missed the goal entirely sparking scenes of celebration amongst the Leicester team who had secured their first national indoor title since 1978.
Afterwards, Herbert was named Player of the Tournament after scoring two goals in the final and one in the semi final.
Mike Williamson the Slough coach said afterwards, “We had our chances tonight, enough to win, but we didn’t take them. It was very disappointing because when we played them in the league we took them and won.”
Player of the Tournament Herbert said it was a “brilliant” game. “In the past we’ve had a history of being relegated so we really didn’t expect to win. It feels great.”
Maddie Hinch, whose saves helped Leicester secure the title said, “It’s unbelievable. We came in as an underdog. We played a defensive style yesterday against Canterbury but today we played with much more attacking emphasis. Throughout the game you got the feeling we could actually do it, and we did.”
Leicester coach Andy Fairbrother was incredibly happy. “The team felt under a bit of pressure with Leicester not having won since 1978 but they worked incredibly hard today. I can’t say much more because I’m so happy.”
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse