BELPER’S U18 and U16 girls’ indoor hockey teams were successful in their respective pool competitions last weekend and reached the semi-finals of the national clubs’ competitions but both failed to progress further.
In the U18 competition held at Whitgift School in Surrey, Belper beat local team Surbiton 3-2 in their opening game.
After going a goal down in the first minute Belper equalised through Charlotte Middleton just before half time.
Two minutes into the second half Amy Davies put Belper into the lead and a minute later Anna Toman made it 3-1 at a corner.
Surbiton reduced the arrears two minutes from time.
In their second match against Bowdon from Manchester Belper again conceded first in the ninth minute but Rachel Griffiths evened things up just before the break.
Eight minutes into the second half Bowdon scored in open play but a minute later a Toman corner earned a draw and one point.
On day two Belper opened the scoring against Isca from Exeter with a Toman corner but were pegged back before half-time.
Four minutes into the second period another Toman corner and then an open play goal from Nat Tipper eased Belper into a 3-1 lead. Isca closed the gap with a corner just before the end but Belper held firm to record a second 3-2 win of the competition.
Belper’s final pool game was against leaders Old Loughtonians from Essex and it proved to be the match of the competition.
Old Loughts scored from a corner in the first minute but Middleton replied immediately for Belper in open play then on three minutes Toman scored an astounding goal in open play when she dribbled the whole length of the pitch, beating all opposition players plus keeper.
The 2-1 lead lasted until two late Old Loughts’ corners in succession left Belper 3-2 down at the break. Middleton scored twice after the restart to give Belper, needing to beat OLs to win the pool in order to have prime position in the semi-final draw, a 4-3 lead.
When OLs equalised with a corner with three minutes to go, Belper took off keeper Charlotte Middleton, replacing her with an outfield player. The tactic partially worked as the extra player caused problems in the OLs’ defence and they conceded a last minute corner. But Toman’s shot hit the keeper and the ball rebounded to safety and the game ended 4-4.
This meant Belper finished second in pool A and had to play Beeston, the winners of pool B in their semi-final. Belper beat local rivals Beeston from Nottingham last year to win the national championships.
In the Midlands’ round of this year’s competition Belper beat Beeston on goal difference to take the Midlands’ title.
Beeston scored in open play on four minutes. One minute later Toman equalised at a corner but then Beeston netted twice in the 10th and 11th minutes to leave Belper 3-1 down.
On the stroke of half-time Belper earned a corner and although Toman’s shot was parried by the keeper, Griffiths steered the rebound into the net to leave Belper a goal down at the break.
Beeston stretched their lead to 4-2 in the eighth minute with another corner from Siebert and so Belper took off their keeper to add an extra outfield player.
This time the tactic did not work according to plan and Beeston scored in open play to make it 5-2. The courageous Belper defence survived two late corners with no keeper to prevent further addition. But there was not to be a third consecutive final for the Nailers.
Belper U16s also went out in their semi-final but by the narrowest of margins to the winners of group B Havering from Essex, Belper having qualified in second place in group A.
Belper had a disastrous start and were two goals down in three minutes. Midfielder Maddy Wood was then injured and Belper conceded a third goal.
Becky Hawkins then pulled one back before half-time leaving a 3-1 deficit.
After the break Cerys Parkin cut the margin to one goal and the Belper keeper Carrie Bruell saved a penalty stroke when Hawkins was suspended for three minutes.
Havering scored again to restore a two-goal margin at 4-2 but with two minutes to go, Naomi Cotterill made it 4-3 whilst Belper were still a player short. Hawkins returned to the pitch to score the equaliser with one second left on the clock. The match then had to go to penalties.
Each team took three penalties; each side scored one and missed two. It was then sudden death. Kathryn Lane saw her effort saved and Havering scored theirs, taking them to the final.
Belper’s passage to the semi-final contained a number of heart-stopping moments. In their first game against Lancaster, Belper were somewhat disjointed but managed a 2-1 win. They were a goal down at half-time but scores from Hawkins and Wood won it.
Next up were eventual champions Wycombe and this resulted in a 3-0 loss for Belper who again failed to take chances.
The next game against Isca saw chances again go untaken with just a Cotterill goal to show in a 3-1 defeat.
The Nailers then thought their chances of a semi-final had gone but upsets in the other games meant that if Belper won their last pool A match against Harleston Magpies from Norfolk, they would qualify.
The game began badly with a Magpies score on two minutes and so it remained at half-time.
One minute after the break Ellie Miles pulled it back to 1-1 with a fine individual goal.
Alas Magpies soon restored their goal advantage. With two minutes to go, Belper needed two goals to get to the semi-final.
A Magpies defender illegally stopped the ball on the line and Lane converted the penalty. At the other end Bruell denied Magpies at a corner.
With four seconds left, Belper were awarded another corner which Lane converted to send the Belper crowd into loud cheers.
Belper now return to outdoor hockey and the prime objective is the retention of national league status. On Saturday the Nailers entertain Bradford Wakefield at Belper Meadows (1.30pm) in a postponed National League outdoor fixture from November.
Belper lost 5-2 early on in the season away at Wakefield but now with much more experience and confidence, they will hope to gain at least a point from the game.