Maidenhead U16 A v Hertford U16 League Quater Finals
By Jacqui Bird
DOUBLE disappointment for the girls as they were knocked out of the Home Counties competition and suffered their first loss of the season.
They recovered well from the shock of going a goal down as early as the second minute and from conceding again from a penalty corner shortly before half-time.
But – despite plenty of possession and time in opposition territory - they could not take any of the chances created and so failed to score for the first time this season.
Maidenhead had won their four group games – including the spirited 3-2 fight-back at Woking – to earn their regional quarter-final knock out spot.
Hertford, on the other hand, had only got through their group on goal difference. However, they started strongly, at pace, and took the lead with a cracking move.
First, they won the ball from Tori in midfield and then their right winger evaded a challenge from Hattie to reach the byline and get in a cross which was dispatched past Alexis in goal from close range.
To be fair, we got straight back into the game with a run by Maisie, followed shortly by her winning the first of a series of penalty corners. But set-piece shots by Tori and Tilly couldn’t breach their defence.
Next Amelia fizzed in a long-range effort from outside the D, but no-one was there to touch home. At the other end, Lizzie conceded a penalty corner but immediately made amends by clearing the Hertford shot.
Maisie had another run at goal, but her shot was saved and next Emily - from another short corner – battled to get her shot away, only for it to flash wide of the left-hand post.
Hertford always looked dangerous on the counter and turned a spell of pressure into their second goal. Alexis saved one effort which went out for a long corner. But a minute later they scored from a penalty corner, low to her left.
In spells, the visitors played nice flowing, passing, hockey - although we gave them too much time on the ball. After the break we set out to press them higher up the pitch and get the ball out wide to bypass their more technical, skilful, midfielders.
We did have the ball in the Hertford net within two minutes of the restart, but it was ruled out for a foot and Tilly had a couple of shots, both saved.
For 20 minutes Maidenhead built pressure and had more efforts blocked, or deflected, or just wide from Emily and Tilly with Maddy looking to steal in at the far post…but the break would not come.
On a rare Hertford attack, Alexis saved well and kicked clear and then her opposite number made a terrific double reaction save…one low, the other high…and after that we ran out of steam.
Despite having a strong bench, the final 10 minutes saw tired legs and tired minds on the pitch as we tried to go through the middle and frustration set in.
So, Sunday may have been a bridge too far and the end of our nine-game unbeaten run. But there is still plenty to play for this season. If we can beat Slough away in our last EH Cup on March 10, we will finish second in our group – behind Reading – and qualify for the finals tournament.
But first, next Sunday, it is time for the Development Squad to play the first in a run of four remaining games this season versus South Berks at Braywick on Sunday (March 3).