After Birmingham’s undefeated season last year, they finally met their match in the Newcastle Hockey firsts XI, who held them to a stirring 1-1 draw at their Edgbaston stronghold.
Newcastle, competing in BUCS Premier North B league, went into this clash as the underdogs knowing Birmingham were yet to drop a point in their last two seasons. Undaunted, and buoyed by Captain Louise Beechener’s warm up, Newcastle met the challenge head on, in a game full of momentum shifts.
Birmingham, who began well, picked up a fluid run of play early in the first half, with their left midfield driving towards baseline and firing the ball across Newcastle’s D to an unmarked forward at the penalty spot, who got a quick shot away. Sophie Adams, the Newcastle goalie, denied the Birmingham forward’s shot on goal and cleared the ball from her D with a dynamic save.
Having quelled the early pressure, and looking more poised, Newcastle picked up the tempo and had a good bout of possession resulting in a sequence of short corners, which, alas, came to nothing.
"Having quelled the early pressure, and looking more poised, Newcastle picked up the tempo and had a good bout of possession resulting in a sequence of short corners, which, alas, came to nothing"
Then, in the final minute of the first half, Birmingham strung together a good passage of play, putting pressure on Newcastle’s defence resulting in a penalty corner, despite multiple Newcastle sticks surrounding the ball. As the umpire lowered his hand, Birmingham projected the ball to the top of the D and, with a first-time strike, the ball hit the backboard of the Newcastle goal. Going into the second half 1-0 down was not a fair reflection of the play.
Newcastle, unfazed by that late first half goal, started the second half determined to get something from the match and were producing slick episodes of play, entering the opposition’s D more and more as time progressed, and managing to get a few shots away.
Unfortunately, the strong Birmingham goalkeeper denied these chances. As Birmingham began to regain possession, Rosie Dale showed her feisty side by taking out a Birmingham player resulting in a two-minute green card.
"Now back in the game, Newcastle were determined to take the lead"
Newcastle’s time finally came 15 minutes into the second half. Dale offloaded the ball in the centre of the pitch, and at pace, eliminated multiple Birmingham players. Dale, on her reverse, found Mollie Roberts in the D, who deflected Dale’s reverse sweep over the diving goalkeeper to make the score 1-1.
Now back in the game, Newcastle were determined to take the lead. And with energy levels running high, Newcastle pushed into Birmingham’s half and Hannah Cashell, receiving the ball at the top D, took onto her reverse and attempted to secure the winner, but sadly the ball went wide.
As the whistle blew for full time, Birmingham looked disappointed with the score-line, whilst Newcastle celebrated the hard-earned point.
The Newcastle coach described the team’s performance as “their best yet”, whilst in the Birmingham dugout, the coach commented on the fact that Birmingham were so close to losing the tie. Roll on the return fixture at the “Fortress” in late January.