“So it’s off to Nationals for this fantastic team.”
Left to Right Standing: Eve Pepper, Jemima Tomlinson, Holly Pears, Yasmin Marshall, Hattie Councell, Daisy Grainge, Marnie Scatchard, Minnie Pollock (C)
Kneeling: Evie Haigh (GK)
Our girls were coming into the competition on the back of an already excellent season being North Yorkshire Cup Champions, Yorkshire Cup Champions and Yorkshire League Champions, could they go one step further and add the North of England champions trophy to their winners cabinet?
We’d had a late injury to the squad in Poppy Barlow who broke her wrist, gutting for her and the rest of the team that she couldn’t take part. However, it did make me realise that I should have some more cover just in case of injuries on the day. Thanks to the strength in depth at Thirsk I was able to call upon Eve Pepper and Jemima Tomlinson to act as that support. They slotted straight into the team with no worries whatsoever, a credit to them both.
It was perfect hockey conditions at Weetwood and the girls all arrived looking ready for the challenge. The games were 10 minutes each way and we were in a pool of 4 teams: Thirsk, Wigton, Bowden and Preston. The big challenge for the girls in these tournaments is you don’t know the teams you are facing so the girls have to react to what’s in front of them at game time. The girls know what to do, take one game at a time, treat each one as their final.
So the first game was against Preston, the girls although dominant were not playing their best, not enough passing or communicating and our centre forward was misfiring on the shots front. Having said that at half time we were a long way ahead but I told them that they need to go out in the second half and really turn their A game on as the games were only going to get tougher. They didn’t disappoint and they started to get their passing game going and even our centre forward started to find the back of the goal with a bit more ease. In the end a strong win for the girls finishing 11-0 winners.
Next up was Bowden who we knew would be stronger opposition. So the girls were fired up and ready, it was a tense start but it was us putting all the pressure on with Bowden struggling to get out of their own half. We eventually broke the deadlock but Bowden kept piling on the pressure. We got another goal just before half-time which was then disallowed for a foot infringement. So 1-0 up at half time and the girls were in a battle. I told them you need to turn up the pressure, they are going to come back at you with everything in this second half. That Bowden did but the Thirsk girls weren’t having any of it, the pressure was dutifully turned up and the goals started coming. At full time we had won 6-0.
Our final pool game was against Wigton, we knew Bowden had beaten them but I told the girls not to be complacent, if they could win this match then we were in the semi-final. The girls started strong in the first half and Wigton couldn’t get out of their half but that did lead to a congested Wigton defence that were scrapping to get the ball away. We finished the first half well and were a couple of goals to the good. The second half was definitely a bit flatter but we still managed a couple more goals to finish 4-0 winners.
So that was the Pool won and we were hoping not to meet our Yorkshire friends in Wakefield in the semi’s. They had been doing well in the other pool and we wanted an all Yorkshire final if possible. The good news was that they won their Pool also, so they got to face our second place team, Bowden and we got to face Alderley Edge in our semi-final.
The team got together, discussed what we needed to do, go out and smash it in the first few minutes. They win this and they are through to the National Finals, I told them to put everything into this game. The game started and they didn’t disappoint, although tense and with some great competition from AE, I could tell my girls were hungry for this. The pressure told and by half time we were 3 goals up. I got the girls in and told them the next 10 minutes is going to be tough don’t let this slip. They were on fire in the second half, after a couple more goals the AE’s girls heads dropped and we piled on the pain. We finished up 8-0 winners and we were through to the final, that also meant we secured a place at the National finals as well – cue small celebration!
There was the not so small matter of the final to deal with now and against Wakefield – Yorkshire hockey shining bright again. This was held on the top pitches so we all moved camp and the girls started warming up but there wasn’t much time. I just told the girls lets finish this in style and get some more silverware for the club and I could tell they weren’t going to let this slip. Wakefield have been great competition for us all season so we knew it was going to be tough. So it started and unsurprisingly it was tense with plenty of end to end action to begin with but we were playing some lovely hockey and the pressure told, the goals started coming and by half time we were 3-0 up. Second half and Wakefield changed their formation slightly to come and attack us more but the defence was more than up to the task and our counter attack was quick and precise. We did have one small lapse in concentration that led to Wakefield getting a goal back but we finished up 6-1 winners, our highest score ever against Wakefield. That was it though, NORTH OF ENGLAND CHAMPIONS 2017!!!!!!!!!!
What a tournament for these girls, scoring 35 goals for and only letting one goal. That is only the second goal they have let in ALL season and they have never lost a match either, hugely impressive stats.
So just a little bit about the girls, they are all amazing and every single one of them is needed to make up this great team. Evie in goal, admittedly there are times when she doesn’t have much to do but she is always concentrating and shouting support at her team, only 2 goals past her in about 45 matches is something to be hugely proud of. Yas and Daisy in defence, they offer so much more than rock solid defence, they are who start our attack and they have developed so much this season into a real attacking threat for us. The wings of Marnie and Hattie and more recently Eve and Jemima, running their socks off in attack and defence – they all got a lot of goals yesterday and that is down to them being in the right place at the right time, that isn’t fluke, they work for it. Holly in central midfield, a strong player who has worked hard on her passing game to release the wings into space and set up and score many goals herself. Minnie up front who often gets all the glory on the goals front but that is down to the rest of her team helping, without them she wouldn’t be able to score as many as she does. The sum of all their parts is strong but together they have been an unstoppable force this season. The exciting part is that they are all improving game by game.
So it’s off to Nationals for this fantastic team. A little town in North Yorkshire competing as one of the top 10 teams in the Country. This is the third year in a row Thirsk Hockey Club has achieved this which is a huge accolade for what will be the smallest club there by quite some margin. Thirsk should be very proud of this club!
Player’s player: Minnie Pollock. Manager’s player: Marnie Scatchard.
A big thank you to all the parents and other travelling supporters and to my beautiful assistant Duncan (aka Malcolm!).
Updated 15:29 - 7 May 2017 by Mike Rushmere