GB girls are back
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.
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