In a game of few chances, Birmingham Women’s 1s hockey team exacted revenge on their conquerors of two years Durham, with a 1-0 victory on the Bournbrook pitches.
The final score line didn’t adequately reflect the extent of the home side’s control of the fixture. Birmingham controlled possession for long periods of time, with the midfield three of Emily DeFroand, Captain Anna Toman, and the hugely influential Alice Sharp moving the ball with ease all game.
Despite the possession and territorial advantage Birmingham were enjoying, they were unable to fashion much in the way of clear-cut chances from open play. Two short corners came and went without causing Durham‘s keeper Alice Stuart-Grumbar any real worries in the first five minutes. In fact, the visitors were rarely troubled, despite patient build-up play from the home side.
Though Durham looked solid at the back, they offered next to nothing going forward in the first half, with any brief forays into the Birmingham half quickly snuffed out by centres Rebecca Van Beukel and Emma Trunks. It was therefore a surprise that Durham fashioned the best opportunity to open the scoring on the half-hour mark, courtesy of their first short corner of the contest. A deflected shot fell to Emily Mortimer only three yards out, but under pressure she was unable to convert the chance.
Birmingham, seemingly stung in to action, responded swiftly. Breaking forward in numbers, they earned their sixth short corner of the half and forced Stuart-Grumbar into action, diving low to her right to keep the scores level. It was obvious, however, that the constant pressure was finally beginning to force Durham into uncharacteristic mistakes. The usually impressive Alice Freeman missed a regulation clearance out of her attacking circle; instead the ball cannoned into her foot and gifted Birmingham a remarkable seventh short corner.
It was to prove to be lucky number seven for Birmingham, as Sharp found her midfield partner DeFroand. A strong swipe from DeFroand saw her shot loop up off the foot of Stuart-Grunbar and into the roof of the net seconds before half time.
Having taken the lead in the 2012 and 2013 finals before going on to lose 2-1, Birmingham were determined to find a second goal from the restart. The movement and dribbling skills of the front three of Emily Wilford, Olivia Chilton and Faye Curran were too much to handle for the visitors and Wilford perhaps should have doubled the home team’s advantage. Despite having acres of space just inside the attacking circle, Wilford seemed unable to decide whether to shoot or pick out Chilton at the back post. In the end, she could only dissect the gap between the far stick and the outstretched Chilton.
Further chances came Birmingham’s way with Chilton and Curran both failing to add to the score from only a few yards out. It was DeFroand, however, who came closest to making it 2-0, as Durham were once again prised open down their left. This time the cross found its target, but DeFroand just couldn’t find the right angle to divert the ball inside the near post on the dive.
With time ticking away, Durham brought on an extra outfield player in place of their keeper but were still unable to find any cracks in the Birmingham defence. As the energy levels started to drop, the final whistle came as music to Birmingham’s ears. A final against league runners-up Loughborough awaits at the end of the month.
UOB Hockey: W1 v Durham W1 – BUCS Championship Semi Final – 12/03/2014 by Burnfm_Sport on Mixcloud