The University of Birmingham Sport (UBSport) Women’s Hockey team were unable to defend their crown for their third year in a row as they suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships final to their Durham rivals at Abbeydale Sports Club, Sheffield on Thursday, March 15.
However, their preparation for the final, their fifth in their last seven seasons under Head Coach Phil Gooderham, was not ideal, as the team bus was stuck in traffic, delaying the kick-off by 50 minutes.
Despite the delay, the Birmingham side showed no adverse effects to the delay as the match began in an even fashion with both teams trying to find their feet in their biggest game of the season.
Unfortunately for Birmingham, Durham settled first as Steph Elliott’s snap shot deflected off a Birmingham defender’s stick to wrong-foot goalkeeper Amy Jones and find the back of the net.
That set-back seemed to further motivate the Birmingham side, as they pressed their opponent’s defence to find that vital equaliser to get them back into the game.
Durham doubled their advantage from their next short corner. Sophie Davies played it Sophie Hawkins, whose powerful effort was well saved by Jones. However, the Birmingham keeper could only watch as Davies fired home the rebound to make it 2-0.
Birmingham’s opponents could have put the game beyond all doubt just before the half-time whistle, as Sam Smith showed fantastic pace to go through on goal, but Alice Brown’s last ditch tackle saved Birmingham from going further behind.
Following their half-time team talk the Birmingham side looked much stronger as a unit, and almost got back into the game when Emily Atkinson took on four Durham defenders before slotting in Anna Griffiths who saw her effort stopped by Durham keeper Harriet Tebbs.
Birmingham began to pressurise the Durham defence and Jenna Woolvern was next to come close as her reverse stick shot deflected just wide of the mark, before Durham’s Sophie Hawkins was yellow-carded for a bad challenge to give Birmingham the player advantage.
The defending champions made their advantage count when Alice Sharp played in a short corner which eventually fell to Kirsty Dawson who powerfully smashed it home, leaving Tebbs no chance in the Durham goal.
Atkinson then went close for Birmingham but saw her shot deflect off a Durham stick and go out for a corner, before in the last minute of the match Sarah Page teed up Rosie Bailey whose shot squeezed just wide of the post to leave Birmingham’s players frustrated at the final whistle, but proud to have made yet another BUCS Championships final.
Head Coach Gooderham could not hide his disappointment after watching his side’s defeat: ‘I feel gutted. We played all of the hockey in the game, but just because you play all of the hockey, it doesn’t mean that you will win.
‘I’m gutted for the girls. They have gone out and played really well but it’s just not our day. It’s our fourth year in a row in the final and I can’t fault the girls for their effort.’