Champions 2017/18. Photo c/o David Kissman
England Hockey Ladies North Conference
10th March, Nottingham Hockey Centre
- Beeston – Sophie Robinson (FG50) (FG55)
- Loughborough Students – Madeleine Pearce (FG51)
- Natalie Robson 1, Ellie De Heer 3, Caroline Hulme 6, Nicola Hammond 8, Lauren Burrell 9, Sophie Robinson 10, Rebekah Walker 11, Rosy Stephens 13, Fenella Scutt 19, Eloise Stenner 20, Nina Apoola 21, Jess Roe 23, Isabella Davison 24, Bella Fisken 29, Paige Gillott 30, Lottie Ross 31
Beeston Ladies became Investec National Conference North champions on Saturday following a 2-1 victory against Loughborough Students.
In fact, the title had already been sealed moments before push back when news filtered through that Brooklands Poynton, the only team who could still usurp Beeston from top spot, had drawn their match with Sutton Coldfield and in doing so had handed the title to Beeston. The Beeston squad were however, unaware of those events and so battled hard for the three points they thought they needed to get the job done.
Loughborough are a side greatly improved in the last few months after a difficult start to the season and it was clear from the outset that they were keen to spoil any thoughts Beeston had of title winning party.
The first half proved to be a very entertaining affair with both teams determined to play good, fast flowing hockey, but in reality for large periods they cancelled each other out with much of the play in the centre of the pitch although both goalkeepers did have to make a couple of good saves to keep the scores level.
As the second half progressed though, the game became a little more stretched, and it was the champions elect who broke the deadlock, Sophie Robinson getting the slightest of touches on a Nicola Hammond cross which then deflected onto the stick of Megan Lewis-Williams and over the shoulder of Miriam Pritchard and into the roof of the net. Beeston celebrated the goal, but then forgot to switch back on as Loughborough went straight up the other end and scored an equaliser, Maddie Pearce grabbing a goal with a neat deflection on her league return to Beeston against her former club.
The home sides success this season has been built on being resilient though, and their experience showed in how they quickly regrouped and created another opportunity. Some good closing down work on Lauren Grundy spewed the ball up to Nina Apoola whose neat pass was seized upon by Sophie Robinson. The Beeston captain only had one thought in her mind and she slammed a shot across the goal and through Pritchard before the England U21 stopper could react. Beeston pressed hard for a third goal towards the end, but as it turned out 2-1 was enough for the three points and a third Conference North Title, five years on from their last.
Beeston have two more league games remaining before moving on to the Investec Promotion tournament to try and earn a place in the Premier League for next season.
After the match, Beeston Manager Chris Glover reflected, “It has been a huge effort from the girls across a number of months working towards this goal. Obviously on the face of it, it looks like we have won the league at a canter currently being 14 points ahead of 2nd place and 20 points ahead of third. But a lead like that does not happen by magic, and it is truly down to the hard work the girls put in behind the scenes every week and throughout pre-season. This group have been learning and developing for 18 months now, and the great thing is we think there is much more to come. We can enjoy this success tonight, then it will be straight back to work as we try to prepare for a successful play-off campaign which we know will be a huge challenge, but one we are looking forward to embracing. I must also take this chance to thank our many sponsors, especially FHP Living, because without their support this would not have been possible.”
Head Coach Colin Clarke who has seen his team claim back to back indoor promotions and now an outdoor league title in just his second year in charge, was also delighted with how the squad handled the challenge against Loughborough saying, “Today was a really good test for us, and I was pleased with the way we stepped up and handled the pressure. We have high expectations, and the girls have done remarkably well all year in keeping to those so consistently. I am very proud of their achievement in winning the league with two games to go, and I will now do my best to prepare them for the challenges ahead.”
Come and watch the FHP Living Bees in their final league home game of the season against Brooklands Poynton on Saturday 24th March at 2pm.