No happy home coming for Lamb

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England Hockey League

Conference North Division

Belper 3, Doncaster 4

After an absence of three years from the first team, Lizzie Lamb, 33, returned to score the opening goal for the Ladies in an agonising 4-3 loss to Doncaster.

However, the stars of the show were 17-year-old Anna Toman and 18-year-old Charlotte Hobbs, who were instrumental in all of Belper’s goals.

The opening exchanges were even with Doncaster earning a penalty corner in the eighth minute but the shot was well dealt with by the Belper defence team

On 22 minutes disaster struck as Belper needlessly gave the ball away inside their half and a quick series of passes led to Doncaster going 1-0 up.

A poor standard of umpiring caused frustration for both teams and also the spectators throughout the game.

The first key error was the awarding of a penalty corner to the visitors for a defender allegedly not being five metres from a free hit, the video evidence proving otherwise.

The initial shot was well saved by keeper Kathryn Bradbury but the defence were unable to prevent the second attempt that cannoned off Bradbury’s right foot into the goal from a narrow angle put the Nailers 2-0 down.

Worse was to follow four minutes later, when a Belper defender was caught in possession in front of goal and the ball rolled over the line in the ensuing muddle and that sent the Nailers into the break with a 3-0 mountain to climb.

Belper knew that their overall play had been encouraging and that keeping their goal difference down could prove important at the end of the season.

The first glimmer of hope came after continued pressure of the Doncaster left defence. A penalty corner was finally awarded and Toman’s precise pass to Hobbs saw her shot parried by the keeper but Lamb was on the spot to flip the loose ball over the line with her reverse stick.

A crucial sequence of umpiring errors cost Belper another goal when three consecutive blunders allowed Doncaster to restore their three-goal advantage on 48 minutes.

Firstly the visitors were allowed to pass the ball into the circle before it had travelled the requisite five-metres from the free hit.

Secondly, in a successful attempt to prevent the ball hitting her feet, Lucy Horn accidently deflected the ball over the back line only to find that the umpire had awarded a penalty corner for deliberately putting the ball out of play and thirdly, the Doncaster slap-hit at the penalty corner high into the goal was allowed despite the rules stating that the initial hit must strike the backboard.

Straight from the restart Hobbs hammered the ball down the pitch and continued pressure forced the Yorkshire team to give the ball to Toman whose driving run and subsequent cross saw Hobbs force the defence into conceding a penalty corner.

The Toman/Hobbs duo then struck again, Hobbs this time needing no help from Lamb to reduce the deficit to two goals.

Doncaster started to look nervous and two minutes later another incisive Toman dribble and cross from a quickly taken free hit, saw Hobbs deflect the ball under the diving keeper on reverse stick.

The visitors’ uncertainty descended into panic as they used all manner of delaying tactics which were not punished by the umpires to cling onto their slender lead until the final whistle, with a rampant Belper team threatening to score at any moment.

Belper’s huge frustration at the outcome of the game, the umpiring and their own errors in the first half were only partly alleviated by the discovery that the three other teams in the relegation battle had also lost, meaning no change in the league positions.

This week Belper go to Durham University with the upbeat manner of their second half performance encouraging them that at least a point is possible from the game.

Belper under-18s made hard work of reaching the quarter-final stage of the EHB Cup.

A 0-0 draw at Manchester-based Bowdon meant the tie went to penalties. Here Belper were supreme with skipper Anna Toman setting the example with a perfect placement to send Belper on their way.

She was followed by confident strikes from Kathryn Lane, Jess Horn and Maddy Wood. Fifth penalty taker Charlotte Middleton was not needed as Annabelle Church in the Nailers’ goal made two confident saves to end the contest at 4-1 to Belper.

Other good news this week was that both Toman (U18) and Lane (U16) have been selected in the final England training squads of 26 for the international tournaments in 2011.

Their first objective will be to make their respective competition squads for the first encounter of the year, the Four Nations tournament. with hosts Spain plus Germany and The Netherlands in Valencia at Easter.