Relegation clash finishes all-square

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England Hockey League

Conference North Division

Aldridge 1

Belper 1

The eighth and ninth placed teams fought each other almost to a stand-still in their relegation battle which ended with honours even and the other results meant little change for the bottom four teams after the weekend’s matches.

With some clubs having double-headers to catch up with the postponed matches from the November snow, only Beeston really advanced their cause, and that only slightly, with a 2-2 draw against Durham University on Sunday.

Their point gained was not enough to lift them off bottom place but they are now only one point behind Belper.

Springfields UCLAN were soundly beaten 8-2 and 5-0 at the weekend by Sutton Coldfield and Loughborough Students respectively.

Beeston, in their other match, went down 2-0 to Loughborough Students on Saturday.

The next three weeks’ results will be crucial for Belper’s survival. Matches against sixth-placed Doncaster, fifth-placed Durham University and seventh-placed Springfields UCLAN, and will be likely to decide their fate.

Goal difference may also be a decisive factor in Belper’s continued existence in the National League at the end of the season.

At Aldridge, Belper began brightly with an excellent sense of purpose with England Under-18 midfielder Anna Toman at the heart of the action.

The first corner on eight minutes saw the Aldridge keeper make three saves in rapid succession as Belper strove to force the ball over the line. Four minutes later a double-save at the next corner again thwarted the Nailers.

Belper were indebted to captain and keeper Kathryn Bradbury at Aldridge’s first penalty corner on 19 minutes when she made a rapid triple-save to keep the home side at bay.

Further Belper corners in the 13th and 27th minutes also went unrewarded and it was not until the 29th minute that Belper took the lead in a somewhat bizarre fashion.

Toman spun away from two players in receiving the ball from a long corner and sent a reverse stick centre into the circle where Charlotte Hobbs managed the faintest of touches to deflect the ball onto a defender’s stick and then under the foot of the unbalanced Aldridge keeper.

Belper reached half-time in the lead for the first time this season but it was not long before Aldridge managed their equaliser.

A mis-placed pass out of defence in the 41st minute was the critical factor as the Birmingham-based side took their opportunity with both hands to place the ball past Bradbury with the defence desperately trying to avert the disaster.

Aldridge were now inspired by their come back and Belper were under constant pressure, Bradbury being called on to make more crucial saves to keep the Nailers in the game and earn herself the player of the match award.

Belper forced two more corners in the 55th and 62nd minutes. Rhiannon Rogers saw her deflection saved on the line and on the second occasion, the ball flew just wide of the post.

Belper will be frustrated that their excellent play in the first half did not bring them a two or three-goal lead by half-time and that failure to capitalise, gave Aldridge the belief that they could come back in the second half.

On Saturday, Belper entertain Doncaster at the Meadows (1.30pm) in their bid to extract points from the teams just above them.

It was a 4-1 defeat earlier in the season in Yorkshire but a much improved and stronger Nailers side will look to take at least a point from the game.

On Sunday Belper Under-18s, who are the current national champions, journey to Bowdon HC near Manchester for their fourth round tie in the England Hockey Cup sponsored by the MAN Group.

Women’s Conference North

Fixtures for Saturday, February 12

Aldridge & Walsall v

Wakefield Bradford

Beeston v Sutton Coldfield

Sunderland v

Loughborough Studnets LHC

BELPER v Doncaster (1.30pm)

Springfields UCLAN v

University of Durham

Results for Saturday, February 5

Aldridge & Walsall 1, BELPER 1

Wakefield Bradford 3, Sunderland 0

University of Durham 0, Doncaster 1

Loughborough Students LHC 2,

Beeston 0

Sutton Coldfield 8,

Springfields UCLAN 2

Table as at 06-02-11

P W D L F A Pts

Loughboro S 11 9 1 1 31 7 28

Sutton Cfld 11 9 0 2 52 13 27

Wakefield Br. 11 8 1 2 30 18 25

Sunderland 11 8 0 3 29 18 24

U of Durham 11 5 3 3 24 13 18

Doncaster 11 3 4 4 18 25 13

Springfields 11 2 1 8 13 45 7

Aldridge & W 11 1 3 7 6 37 6

BELPER 11 1 2 8 12 30 5

Beeston 11 1 1 9 15 24 4