U14 Hockey team perform superbly at North West Finals
It was very fine margins at the North West Hockey Finals where the width of the post on two occasions was the difference between the young AKS U14 hockey team progressing to the North Finals and not!
After winning the Lancashire Tournament and several good practices in half term the AKS U14 Hockey team went into the tournament in confident mood but knew it was going to be tough as they faced some of the best schools in the North West.
Our first game was against Sedbergh and we started well going close to scoring in the first two minutes. Great play from Laura, Lucy and Olivia in midfield saw us put Sedbergh under pressure but solid defending prevented us from finding the net. Sedbergh then started to enjoy more possession and attacked at pace but great defending from Jessica, Maddie B, Beth and Charlotte kept them at bay and at the break the scores were level at 0 – 0. Sedbergh started the second half on the front foot and only a good save from keeper Mady R kept the scores level in the 6th minute. We then started to dominate down our right side with Olivia driving forwards to win an attacking corner but we could not convert and the scores remained at 0 – 0. Lifted by some good passing hockey we started to create some great scoring opportunities and Laura almost put us ahead with minutes to go but her superb effort flew inches wide and at the final whistle nothing could separate the teams and the score was 0 – 0.
With all still to play for the next challenge came in the form of Queens Chester whose talented side had progressed to the National Finals last season. Queens started well putting us under pressure from the first whistle and in the first minutes only another great save from Mady R in goal kept us level. Having weathered the early storm we then started to play our best hockey and Lisa saw her shot saved in the 6th minute. Lisa also went close when a great move saw play switched via Lucy in the middle to and overlapping Olivia whose driving run and pass found Lisa in the circle and her great reverse shot flew wide and at half time the scores remained at 0 – 0. We started the second half on the front foot and after another great passing move Carley was illegally tackled in the circle and a penalty stroke was awarded. Lucy stepped up and coolly converted in the corner to take us into a well deserved 1 – 0 lead. Lifted by the goal we continued to press and almost doubled our lead minutes later but Laura’s superb effort hit the post. With time running out Queen’s attacked with greater urgency and put us under pressure but more solid defending kept the ball out of the net. With two minutes to go however our defences were finally breached as Queen’s scored with a well worked corner routine to draw level at 1 – 1. Queens pushed for a winner in the final minute but more solid tackling and corner defence kept the score at 1 – 1 at the final whistle.
After two impressive draws we went into the final game against Cheadle Hulme knowing we needed a win to secure a place in the North Finals. We again started well and great attacking play on the right from Beth and Olivia worked the ball forward and Lisa frustratingly saw her shot rebound off the post. Cheadle were always dangerous but great team defence saw us close spaces and regain possession but at the break the scores were level. Knowing we needed a win we pushed forward and won an attacking corner but could not convert and it was Cheadle who did score from a corner late on the game. Knowing only a win would take us to the North Finals we threw everything at Cheadle in the final minutes but we could not find the net and a breakaway saw Cheadle score again and dash our hopes with a final score 0 – 2.
The close results in all the matches highlight the strength of all the tournament teams and the fine margins between finishing in the qualifying positions and not. The width of the post on two occasions was the difference between us winning and drawing two of our matches but despite not qualifying for the North Finals the young team, which included players from Yr 7, 8 & 9, can take great pride in both how they played and how much they have improved since the start of the season. The team now look forward to continuing their development in both practices and regular Saturday matches.