It was a wet blustery morning that greeted Leicester City Hockey Club’s U16/18 Squad at Welland Academy on Sunday 29 September, where they met hosts Market Harborough in the season opener.
Coach Oriwa had set the squad up in an attacking formation and the players did not disappoint, pushing immediately from the whistle and looking dangerous from the beginning. The first PC was awarded to Leicester within five minutes, and was promptly converted with a straight strike from India. The girls settled into some lovely passing play, and before too long a beautiful ball from Issy into the D was picked up by Caitlin and passed on swiftly for Isla to find the back of the net.
Despite Leicester being in control, Market Harborough remained dangerous on the break. Etta, Katie and Elena were superb in defence, working brilliantly as a unit and mopping up any incursions from the pushing Harborough side. However, Leicester’s strength in attack was clear, and a big shout out must be given to the Market Harborough goalkeeper (who was probably their most influential player). After a particularly strong push from the girls, she saved six shots in 15 seconds, but the Leicester determination won through in the end, and India scored her second of the match. A PC followed quickly afterwards, and was defended, but found a Harborough foot. The resulting PC saw India send a smart slip back to post, where Etta waited calmly for a fabulous conversion.
Harborough were feisty in response and the next section of play saw them pressuring the midfield and defence hard, but cool heads remained and once again got the better of the opponents. Issy sent one of her trademark balls into the D where Tara smartly finished off. Two more PCs followed, with two more excellent saves from the very good Harborough stopper, but she was unable to get close to the absolute rocket fired by Sophie from the edge of the D from open play. Harborough came back quickly again and were awarded their first PC of the match. It was beautifully defended, with goalkeeper Aleena ensuring a clean sheet was taken into half-time.
Coach Oriwa gave a rousing half-time talk, encouraging the girls to concentrate on transfers. The girls took in every word and were imperious in the second half (possibly due to the threat of team push ups). India quickly bagged her hat-trick with a beautifully converted PC and, after a passage of play displaying the transferring techniques requested from the coach, Caitlin rocketed a ball into the net from the edge of the D.
A second PC for the second half was initially thwarted by the Harborough goalkeeper, but after the rebound struck a Harborough player when plumb on goal. A penalty flick was conceded – which was converted by India to take her tally to four. A beautiful passage of play form Sophie then found Anna, who was waiting on the post to slip behind the ‘keeper. Anna was supreme in the second half, working like a demon; and Elise, Tara and Simran stayed with her every step of the way. Simran’s solid play eventually paid off as she smashed a ball from the top of the D that was just too good for the Market Harborough goalkeeper. She then took her tally to two after picking up a deflection within the D.
Market Harborough never gave up and their persistence eventually paid off. After a great piece of passing play they got the better of the Leicester defence and off the mark. Unfortunately for them, the Leicester girls fought back straight away with Isla picking up a rebound by the post and slipping the ball behind the ‘keeper. Market Harborough were unbowed and fought back, being awarded their second PC of the day. A straight strike rocketed into the net, but unfortunately for them was deemed to be too high and was disallowed. The girls made use of this and a quick break sent a ball high to Simran, who finished the day with a hat-trick.
Final score - Leicester 14 Market Harborough 1
HUGE thanks to Oriwa for her brilliant coaching, to all of the parents and travelling support (you were brilliant as always), and obviously to the girls who were absolutely superb and showed great potential for such a young squad.
However, special mention goes to Elise who provided the entire squad with the MOST delicious chocolate cakes!