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Reading crowned Maxifuel Super Sixes Champions
A buzzing Wembley Arena witnessed a fantastic Maxifuel Super Sixes Final which saw last year’s finalists Reading beat Sutton Coldfield in an enthralling encounter.
A cagey opening few minutes allowed both sides to settle into their rhythm. Sutton Coldfield were first to create an attacking chance when Laura Unsworth broke through the Reading defence and drilled a ball across the face of goal. There was no one on hand for an easy finish though.
Four minutes in, the deadlock was broken when Helen Richardson, faced one on one with the keeper, showed good strength as she powered into the circle and scored from a tight angle. Reading’s lead was soon doubled when great stick work from Captain Emma Thompson created a tap in for Elspeth Cockburn. Reading continued to press and created further opportunities, but they were unable to capitalise as Sutton Coldfield struggled to get out of their own half.
With nine minutes left on the clock until half time, Sutton Coldfield called a time out to re-group and re-assess. They were soon rewarded when a fast break found Gemma Boothby and Sarah Mills in a 2 on 1 situation. Boothby slipped the ball to Mills to eliminate Reading’s goalkeeper Sarah Ellis, and Mills was left to sweep into an open goal.
Sutton Coldfield continued to pile pressure on the Reading defence and forced Ellis into making two smart saves. However, moments later she was beaten, when Laura Unsworth went on a great run from inside her own half. Unsworth drove into the circle and dispatched a pin-point perfect pass onto the back post for hockey legend Jane Sixsmith to tap in and level the scores at half time.
Few chances were created in the opening ten minutes of the second half but the best fell to Kate Walsh. A fantastic through ball from fellow Olympic bronze medallist Richardson found Walsh, but she slipped the ball just wide of the post. 2 minutes later, Richardson made it 3 - 2 with some brilliant individual skill as she took on the Sutton defence and finished calmly in a crowded circle.
A fantastic display from Richardson saw her restore Reading’s two goal advantage and complete her hat-trick from a penalty corner in the 33rd minute, when she fired a low shot which beat an outstretched Becky Batsford for a 4 – 2 lead. With three minutes left on the clock, Reading called a time-out and Sutton decided to bring on a kicking back. The extra outfield player enabled them to break into the Reading circle and win their first penalty corner of the match, but they were unable to capitalise.
Player of the match Richardson scored her fourth and sealed a 5 – 2 victory for Reading in the dying seconds. Sam Quek used the side boards smartly to deflect the ball through to Richardson, who finished from a tight angle.
Speaking after the game, four goal hero Richardson, was delighted with the team performance, saying: “I am extremely pleased for all the girls. We’ve fallen at the last two hurdles in previous finals and to win it finally is fantastic. We played as a team, used our whole squad; everyone knew what they had to do and we all did our jobs.
“We are now in Europe so we want to go on and do well in that, we want to become the best team in the country in both indoors and outdoors.”
Sutton Coldfield’s Jane Sixsmith, Olympic bronze medallist in the 1992 Barcelona, said: “Obviously we are very disappointed in the way we lost it. I think we were able to keep up with Reading in the first-half and match them, but they upped the tempo in the second. The main difference today was Helen Richardson, who was unbelievable. All credit to Reading they battled hard.”
“These finals are really important for the sport. We had 100 made the journey for the final today, and to have that support in the crowd along with 6,000 others is fantastic. It definitely raises the profile of the sport and it’s great for people to be able to watch it live on TV, too.”