Spalding Hockey Club Under 18 Girls suffered penalty heartbreak in the semi-finals of England Hockey’s National Girls Under 18 Plate, losing 4-3 to Wimbledon Under 18 Girls after the game ended 2-2.
Just like the men’s 1st team in the semi-finals of the National Vase a week earlier, Spalding came back disappointed after putting on a fantastic performance for their travelling supporters at Old Loughtonians Hockey Club, Essex.
Spalding were underdogs against a highly-rated Wimbledon side, one of the oldest and richest hockey clubs in England providing professional coaching every day of the week for its 450-plus junior members.
But after a nervy start by both teams, Spalding settled quickly and they were soon making inroads into the Wimbledon defence.
The main chance of an evenly contested first half fell to Katie Gray who slipped her way past two defenders and Wimbledon’s keeper, only for the ball to run agonisingly wide of the post.
Spalding were under pressure at times, but solid defending by skipper Rachel Perkins, Kate Murray and Maisie Dobbs, along with some inspired keeping from Becky Warr, kept the score 0-0 at half time.
In the second half, Wimbledon took the initiative and they were rewarded with a penalty stroke after five minutes when a goal-bound shot struck Di Bevan on the head.
Wimbledon converted the resulting penalty stroke before Spalding fought back as Perkins struck a short corner just inches wide
Then a second short corner was driven into the Wimbledon goalmouth by Tori Needham and a jubilant Lily Dobbs was on hand to turn the ball in for a deserved equaliser.
Just two minutes later, Spalding were ahead when Gray outpaced the defence before slotting calmly past the oncoming keeper.
The game became frantic in the closing stages as Spalding fought to maintain their lead but with just three minutes remaining, a Wimbledon forward broke through and equalised with a sweet strike.
So to penalties with Spalding scoring their first two strokes before Warr saved two from Wimbledon to put her side 2-0 up.
It then became 3-1, 3-2 and 3-3 when Wimbledon’s England international Cassie Hughes stepped up and calmly made it 3-3.
Into sudden death penalties and Warr saved brilliantly from Hughes this time but when Wimbledon’s keeper pulled off two saves from Spalding, the girls’ fate was sealed with a successful Wimbldon penalty to end the tie.