Horsham 0 Ipswich 1
Investec English Hockey League
Women’s Conference East
THE enthusiasm and unbridled confidence of youth coupled with an impressive desire and work ethic from the entire team saw Ipswich return back from Horsham with probably their best win in over two seasons.
Hit by unavailability Ipswich, who finished in fourth place last season, travelled to Sussex with only 11 players, hoping that Charlie Anderson would be able to make the second half after finishing her teaching commitments.
With 15-year-old Kitty McWhirter and 16-year-old Lowri Davies making their EHL debuts in the starting line up it would have been easy for the visitors to have folded under the expectation and pressure but this Ipswich team with an average age of just 20 years old showed a maturity beyond their years to carve out a fantastic three points.
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The game started at a frantic pace, with both sides looking to find their feet. Ipswich despite playing several players out of position were the first to settle and an early attack down the right by player of the match Hannah Martin gave assistant coach Mark Wheelhouse a glimpse of things to come.
Soon Martin was carving open the Horsham defence at will and her sublime skills won the away team their first of six short corners in the half. Despite a good effort the shot did not find the target and Horsham looked to counter attack. However the Ipswich back line of Faye Curran, Fran Tew, Hannah Tallent and captain Emma Millar held firm, with excellent marshalling by Mariette Rix in goal.
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Despite the good work by the entire Ipswich team they could not find the killer shot when in the Horsham circle and they then had Olympian Rix to thank as she made a world class save from a strong shot from the top of the circle.
Halfway through the first half Ipswich thought their pressure had finally told but the deflection from a short corner was scrambled off the line. With time ticking down Rix made another quality save and the teams entered half time locked at 0-0.
Wheelhouse highlighted the Ipswich strengths and the team, now boosted by the arrival of Anderson took on a more familiar look, as well as allowing some of the Ipswich players to grab a well earned rest.
The second half became more of a midfield battle but Martin again was causing all sorts of problems for the Horsham defence. After riding a bad stick tackle she entered the circle and this time made no mistake with her superb reverse stick effort, finally it was a well deserved 1-0 to Ipswich.
It was Martin’s fourth National League goal but with over 26 minutes remaining Ipswich still had a lot to do to ensure it was a match winner.
Despite only having one sub Ipswich still looked full of running and with Lowri Davies and Annie Nunn controlling the midfield and the rest of the side working flat out to deny the home team time it looked like it was going to be a great result for the visitors.
With time almost up Horsham created one last threatening attack but a brave tackle by the outstanding Fran Tew, which saw her receive a blow to the head for her efforts, snuffed out any danger and Ipswich rightly celebrated the final whistle.
Whilst Martin was a clear winner of the player of the match for her classy display it must be said that these three points were a total team effort with each and every player pouring their heart and soul into their performance.
It is very early days for this young Ipswich side but if they can keep improving there are bound to be some more great results and displays ahead.