Northampton Saints 1 Ipswich 1
England Women's Hockey
Conference East League
Northampton Saints 1 Ipswich 1
IPSWICH HC first team's aspiration of winning the Women's East Conference League was dealt a slight blow on Saturday when they could only manage a 1-1 draw against a very spirited Northampton Saints.
Northampton will be most pleased with their performance on the weekend. They managed to upset the Ipswich rhythm by tight and aggressive defending, relying mostly on a counter attack style of play for any hope of scoring at the other end. Ipswich dominated the opening passage of the match and could have taken the lead very early on if someone had a latched onto a dangerous cross by Issy Sheldrake.
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Slightly against the run of play and to much contention and frustration of the Ipswich players, Northampton were awarded a penalty corner 10 minutes into the game. An unorthodox penalty corner routine and shot hit the foot of an Ipswich defender on the goal line, resulting in a penalty stroke being rewarded. Ester Keijbets confidently slotted the stroke to take her team into the lead.
This setback seemed to upset the Ipswich rhythm and flowing play. The team continued to launch attacks against the home team, but were unable to penetrate a very solid defensive effort. Individual attacking efforts were met by hard and sometimes down breaking tackles but it proved to be an effective strategy for Northampton. Ipswich's offensive efforts were rewarded by several penalty corners throughout the first half, only to be denied by the Northampton goalkeeper who seemed to have a ball magnet connected to her pads.
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On the 30th minute, Ipswich co-captain, Emma Millar, sent a bullet into the net when she pounced on yet another rebound from the Northampton goalkeeper. This seemed to revive the Ipswich spirits. But a frantic passage of play in an attempt to go ahead before the half, only resulted in Ipswich losing possession far too regularly.
The second half saw Ipswich create several more chances but they were unable to capitalise on these opportunities. Frustration and individual errors increased as players surged forward searching for another goal but to no avail.
This draw against Northampton will be a very bitter pill to swallow for the Ipswich Blues, especially since the Saints never really threatened the Ipswich goal. On the other hand this result will have a big impact on the spirits of Northampton and aide their relegation battle in a very big way. They will also feel that they have more than redeemed their 6-0 defeat at the hands of Ipswich earlier in the season.
“We have been at our best this season when we play as a team, and play a good passing game. We did neither of that today. We played as individuals, and unfortunately we didn't do that well enough either to get the result”, said co-captain Mariette Rix after the game. “We will learn from this game and come back strong again next week.”
Ipswich have four matches remaining in the season. They remain two points clear at the top of the table but this weekend's draw means that Ipswich need to win all their remaining games in order to secure the league win.