GB girls are back

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS - by Gra­ham Ot­way

Danny Kerry draws on pos­i­tives from clash with Mar­low men

THE first match for the new GB women’s squad in the four-year pro­gramme, lead­ing up to their at­tempted gold medal de­fence at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, ended in de­feat.

In many other sports, the fact that the na­tional team side had been beaten by op­po­nents from only the third tier of the sport in Eng­land would have cre­ated shock and hor­ror head­lines.

How­ever, this was no run-of-the-mill hockey match. For while Mar­low had their Berks, Bucks and Oxon League men’s first team in ac­tion, GB only fielded six full medal win­ners and two re­serves from the squad that tri­umphed in Rio.

Fur­ther­more, as the match was played in four 20-minute quar­ters with dif­fer­ent line-ups start­ing each pe­riod of play, GB coach Danny Kerry was ex­per­i­ment­ing for the first time with new part­ner­ships and po­si­tions.

And in the build-up to the se­ri­ous job of com­pet­ing in the high-pro­file World League in Johannesburg this sum­mer, Kerry has or­gan­ised nine other games against much tougher op­po­si­tion which he ex­pects will pull the new GB squad to­gether.

“De­spite the re­sult it was a good night for us,” Kerry told The Hockey

Pa­per. “We were able to play 24 out­field­ers and give them ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions.

“And two of them – Char­lotte Cal­nan and Erica San­ders – were 19year-olds who have only just started in the pro­gramme at Bisham.

“We also de­lib­er­ately played much less ex­pe­ri­enced groups in the last two quar­ters of the game to give them more of a chance to work to­gether.

“The Mar­low men played with their pace and power, but try­ing to cope with that was per­fect for us and in the run-up to Johannesburg all the new play­ers in the squad are go­ing to gain lots of ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We have got two matches against Hol­land, three against both Spain and Ar­gentina and one against Bel­gium.

“Tonight was just per­fect for us to have to play against the speed of the men in prepa­ra­tion for all the games ahead.”

The crowd, con­sist­ing mainly of Mar­low mem­bers and friends packed along the com­plete length of one side of the pitch, were hushed for the first two quar­ters.

One of the rea­sons was that they could not eas­ily iden­tify the GB he­roes on show be­cause they were just wear­ing train­ing tops – and none of them had their names or team num­bers on the back.

The other rea­son was that af­ter a rel­a­tively quiet and goal­less first quar­ter in which GB were de­nied by good goal­keep­ing saves, the chance to con­vert two penal­ties then saw GB take the lead in the sec­ond pe­riod.

They went ahead when Cal­nan scored in the 21st minute and dou­bled that ad­van­tage ten min­utes later when So­phie Bray smashed the ball home from close range.

Mar­low, how­ever, had of­ten threat­ened to score them­selves, par­tic­u­larly when young twins Ed­ward and Gre­gory Tyler were mak­ing strong runs down the field. Their ap­proach was as iden­ti­cal as their birth dates.

Three min­utes into the third quar­ter, with a lesser ex­pe­ri­enced GB line-up to over­come, Tom Shel­don scored their first from close range and they got back on level terms through Noah Sharples’ back handed flick from an an­gle.

Joe Shomet put the men ahead two min­utes be­fore the third and fi­nal break and when Cameron Bea­z­ley-Clarke con­verted a penalty soon af­ter the restart, Mar­low had their

win in the bag.

And while the re­sult may have shocked some on­look­ers, Kevin Chap­pell, the Mar­low coach, was not sur­prised by it.

He said: “We have been play­ing the women twice a sea­son for the past three years and it’s not the first time we have won.

“We have nor­mally won in Novem­ber when their squad has just been start­ing work and then got beaten by them in March.

“But we didn’t play them in Novem­ber be­cause so many of their play­ers were tak­ing a break af­ter Rio so this win was a bit dif­fer­ent. Who knows, it may be a type of turn­ing point.

“In the past it has nor­mally been a bit of a goal fest and it was a pity this match wasn’t. But there was a great at­mos­phere out there with the big crowd that turned up.

“It was a use­ful game for me as well be­cause in our squad of 24 I had six or seven of our Un­der-18s play­ing. And it gave those young lads the chance to shine on a big stage.”

But an evening of good hockey en­ter­tain­ment did not end there as the pro­gramme in­cluded one big throw­back to the thrilling ac­tion of the women’s fi­nal in Rio.

Ten min­utes af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle, the two team coaches each picked a squad of five play­ers to take part in a shoot-out.

And with the scores level at three goals apiece af­ter their ef­forts, the ac­tion went to sud­den death with Mar­low com­plet­ing a mem­o­rable dou­ble as they emerged 5-4 win­ners.

PIC­TURES: Guy Pedli­ham

Silky skills: Han­nah Martin jug­gles with the ball as she holds off a Mar­low op­po­nent

Come­back kings: Mar­low launch an­other at­tack on the GB girls’ goal, forc­ing their way back from 2-0 down to win 4-2

Give ‘em Ell! El­lie Wat­ton starts a GB at­tack

De­fend­ing lines: Hol­lie Webb looks to halt the Mar­low charge

Aim...fire! Mar­low get a sight on the GB girls’ goal

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