Sutton Coldfield 6, Belper 0
MISSING their two England international midfielders, Anna Toman and Jess Horn and facing the league’s leaders and highest scoring team, Belper’s 6-0 loss was not surprising and it was only a commendable fighting spirit that ensured the score was not greater.
Sutton have overcome other teams this season to the tune of 10-0, 8-1, 8-2, so a much depleted and inexperienced Belper side can take some heart from the scoreline as they continue their battle against relegation.
Results at the weekend mean that Belper will experience one of three outcomes on Saturday when they are away to Sunderland in their final league match of the season.
A win and Springfields lose means that Belper would stay up on goal difference; a loss and a win to Aldridge would mean relegation; any other result would see Belper into next month’s play offs.
Belper experienced the worst of starts with Sutton scoring inside the first minute and then adding another two minutes later. This meant that the Nailers carefully constructed plan of containment and deep defending to frustrate the home side was in tatters.
When a third goal was added on 13 minutes a rout seemed inevitable. However Belper then began to get up to speed with the quick passing and movement of the former Premiership team.
No further goals were added until one minute before half-time when Belper’s concentration finally lapsed to leave them 4-0 down at the break.
A further brace shortly after half-time presaged a second half deluge but Belper stuck to their task and no further score ensued for the final 29 minutes.
What was also admirable was the prevention of Sutton scoring from any of their 12 penalty corners.
The defence team of keeper Kathryn Bradbury, Lucy Horn, Lizzie Lamb, Kathryn Lane and Kirsty Macleod deserve high praise for their tenacity, quick thinking and bravery as they shut out each of the Birmingham side’s options, which in the season’s previous games have resulted in a total of 22 goals being scored from the set play.
A hat-trick from the former Olympic bronze medal winner, 43 year old Jane Sixsmith, was a key feature of the afternoon as was the constant duel between her and Kathryn Lane, 16, soon to make her debut for England at the Four Nations Under-16 tournament in Valencia over Easter, where she will play against the hosts Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.
In the England Under 18 squad at the same tournament is Anna Toman.