Lincolnshire’s under 17 girls county team travelled to Bedford recently to take part in the East of England Championship tournament.
The girls, comprising otf two local teens Harriett Hanwell, of Alford Grammar School and Vicky Allen of Skegness Grammar School returned as East Champions.
This is the first time a county girls team of any age group has achieved this and when one takes into consideration the much larger player base of the likes of Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, it makes the achievement even greater.
Lincolnshire’s opening game against Bedford was a one sided affair with Bedford defending deep and making it difficult to break them down.
However, a goal either side of half time gave Lincs a 2–0 win, which got them off to a good, if not particularly impressive start.
Next came Hertfordshire, who were buoyed up after just beating Essex.
The Lincs girls started well, creating a couple of half chances before a quick break by Herts saw Lincs a goal down at half time.
Lincs went into the second half piling pressure on the Herts defence and quickly equalised. The game was now being played in the Herts half and only some desperate defending kept the scores level.
With five minutes left, Lincs found the winner their dominance deserved.
Cambridgeshire were next up, who having just lost to Essex needed a win to stay in with a chance of winning the tournament.
Once again Lincs went a goal down and whilst going on to dominate possession couldn’t find the clinical finish in the area.
Again a goal down at half time, Lincs started the second half strongly With Annie Dalton and Naomi Smith dominating in Midfield and quickly equalised.
Continuing to dominate and creating chances Lincs were unable to find the winner.
Cambs for their part were always dangerous on the break, but solid defending by Tamika Providence and Emma Dalton in the Centre of defence and Harriett Hanwell and Hannah Greenacre ensured they created little by way of chances.
With the game finishing 1 – 1 Lincs now only needed a draw against Essex in the final game to win the Championship.
With Lincs suffering at the hands of Essex over the years, the Lincs girls needed no firing up for this game.
Despite a physical and sometimes confrontational side to their game, Essex had no answer to the direct and pacey Lincs passing game.
This Lincs team have also got a steel to their game and were not to be intimidated by Essex.
With Annie and Naomi again dominating in midfield the pace of Lilly Dobbs on the left and Emma Howell on the right, continually caused problems.
Pressure told and lincs went in 1 – 0 up at half time.
The Second half continued in much the same vein, with Essex becoming frustrated at their inabilty to get a foothold in the game. This eventually spilled over when Katie Gray went on a run from the 23 metre line, beating three players before being unceremoniously brought down in the penalty area by two players, resulting in a penalty flick.
Naomi Smith converted this confidently.
With both Katie Gray and Vicky Allen playing up front, the Lincs attackers were a constant thorn all afternoon with no one being able to counter their movement off the ball and with a little more care, they could have scored more goals.
A Mention should also be made to both goalkeepers: Hannah Kitchen and Becky Warr, who were outstanding all day in the way they marshalled their defence and dealt with any balls that came their way.
Following this win, the county would hope that Lincolnshire can now be seen as serious contenders and not to be taken lightly, as perhaps they have in the past and hope this can act as encouragement to any girls who would like to get involved with the county hockey team; as if we can get more girls involved, success can follow!
Anyone interested in getting involved with county hockey boys and girls teams, be it coaches or players, should contact Francis Dalton, at email@example.com
Lincs Squad - Rebecca Warr, Hannah Kitchen, Annie Dalton, Emma Dalton, Tamika Providence, Katie Gray, Lily Dobbs, Naomi Smith, Emma Howell, Hannah Greenacre, Gabby Dunn, Victoria Allen, Harriett Hanwell, Alex Burnett, Victoria Needham.