Marlow Hockey Club’s junior players have reached 3 national indoor finals, one of the best overall performances by a club in the country and the best ever by a Buckinghamshire club.
The first team to qualify were U18 girls, who came undefeated through the regional competition to become South Champions, winning all their games. They started with a 3-0 win vs East Grinstead, followed by beating Wallingford 4-1, and secured a comprehensive 7-0 victory over Horsham. Qualification for the national finals was guaranteed by a tough and well fought win 1-0 win against local rivals Amersham and Chalfont. In the final match of the competition, Marlow went head-to-head with the other unbeaten team, Surbiton, who have been national champions on a number of occasions, and secured a deserved 2-1 victory.
Marlow therefore qualified as South champions and progress to the national finals on 19th and 20th January in Croydon. Top goal scorer was Ellie but special mentions should go to Sarah, and Mel who have just returned from injury and put in match winning performances, and to goalkeeper Mia, who saved a penalty during the crucial victory over Amersham.
Next to qualify were the U16 girls, keen to retain the national title won by Marlow last year. The girls had a shaky start winning 1-0 v Spencer but then went on to build on their first win with comfortable victories over East Grinstead (4-1) and Guildford (4-0). A narrow 2-1 loss to Surbiton proved not to be crucial when Surbiton were defeated in turn by East Grinstead, which meant the girls had to win their last game against local rivals Amersham and Chalfont to finish as South Champions. They quickly settled the nerves of their supporters with early goals, before running out comfortable 5-0 winners.
Notable performances from Lucy in goal and Tilly at left defence saw this young group, most of whom have another year as U16s, qualify for the national final in Wolverhampton on 19th and 20th January.
The final team to qualify were the U18 boys on Sunday. They went into the competition knowing it would be tough to qualify for the finals with several very strong clubs taking part. The boys qualified out of their group in second place, with victories over Horsham, Woking and Amersham and a defeat to a very strong Guildford side. Finishing the group as runners up meant a semi-final against old rivals Surbiton, most people’s favourites for the title. This was a serious step up for the boys with Surbiton having a number of junior internationals in their side. Marlow were fast out of the blocks, playing some excellent indoor hockey, and took the lead from a short corner drag flick from Tom after an error by Surbiton. The boys knew that they could not sit back on a 1-0 lead and earned 2 more short corners but failed to convert. They went into the half time break still in the lead but knew Surbiton would come out fighting and they did, equalising within 3 minutes. Both teams worked hard to convert chances into a win but were unable to, so the game had to be decided by penalty strokes. With scores level entering the last round of flicks, Tom stepped up and scored which meant that when Marlow goalkeeper Max saved the last Surbiton flick, victory, and a place in the National championships was won. Max’s save echoed one he made in the quarter final of the England U18 outdoor Hockey Championships last season against the same opposition, a key moment in a season which saw Marlow win the 2017 title, and labels him as a true Marlow legend.
Qualification for the Nationals secured, Marlow still had to face Guildford in the final for the title of South Champions. Having lost to Guildford earlier in the day, the boys were determined to set the record straight, taking early control and scoring first. However, Guildford are consummate competitors and a tremendous indoor side and so 1-0 soon became 1-1. The hard work Marlow had to put in to win their semi-final started to show, and they conceded early in the second half. Marlow pressed hard for an equaliser, replacing Max with an additional outfield player for the last three minutes, but Guildford withstood the pressure, before a breakaway goal in the last few seconds meant that the final score was 3-1 to Guildford.
The boys U18 National finals will be held in Telford over the same weekend as the girls finals, January 19th and 20th.
The Marlow coaches and supporters were justifiably proud of the performances put in by all three teams. Their performances in games that mattered were inspirational, and the club are now in the happy position of having qualified for a total of eleven National finals in the last five years.
Team pictures are attached.
Updated 18:36 - 21 Dec 2018 by MHC Communications