By Matt Roberts
Durham Women’s Hockey 1sts thrashed Loughborough 6-1 at the inaugural BUCS Varsity last Wednesday at Maiden Castle. The margin of victory was the largest against Loughborough in Durham’s hockey history and it means that the Palatinates have closed the gap on their rivals in the Premier A North division.
In truth, the match was fought more closely than the scoreline suggests. However, whereas Loughborough were wasteful in front of goal, squandering several chances, Durham were clinical and took their opportunities with aplomb.
The home side created the first chance of the match. After coming close to scoring, Durham were awarded a penalty corner but were denied following a goalmouth scramble and some resolute Loughborough defence.
After weathering that early storm, the visitors had the better of the next ten minutes. From a Durham attack, the East Midlands side broke quickly and forced the impressive Katie Brauer in the Durham goal to throw herself in front of the shot for a fine save. The chances kept coming for Loughborough as, moments later, they rattled the post with a fierce flick from a penalty corner.
The flurry of chances for Loughborough seemed to wake Durham up and it wasn’t long before the Palatinates went ahead. Ellen Patterson played a superb long pass to Laura Bevan who received it confidently before being fouled. From the resulting short corner, Patterson swept home to make it 1-0.
Urged on by the vocal support of the men’s 1sts, Durham’s women went in search of a second and were soon rewarded for their attacking verve. Mollie Rawnsley collected the ball just inside the opposition half, ran with pace and intent and finished superbly to double Durham’s lead.
2-0 up at half time, it had been a perfect opening 35 minutes for Durham.
With the onus now on Loughborough to come from behind, they began the second period commandingly and put Durham under immense pressure with a succession of penalty corners. However, as in the first half, Loughborough couldn’t convert any of them and Durham maintained their two goal lead.
That period of play proved to be pivotal and Loughborough’s misery at missing those chances was soon compounded when Durham, through Laura Bevan, scored from a short corner of their own.
Durham now had their tails up and they put the result beyond any doubt with a fourth goal from Lorna Bennell.
On 55 minutes, Durham were awarded a penalty flick after a deliberate infringement by Loughborough with the Palatinates certain to score. Amelia Johnson stroked home emphatically and Durham had five.
In the closing stages the game opened up and everyone found themselves with more time and space which inevitably led to more chances. Loughborough failed to capitalise on their sixth short corner of the match. But Durham were having no such problems in front of goal as Laura Bevan got her second, scoring at the second attempt after her initial effort was well saved.
As the match came to a close Loughborough finally managed to score from a penalty corner, smacking home to reduce the deficit. However it was nothing more than a consolation goal, with Durham 6-1 winners at full-time.
After the match Jules Inverdale, who marshalled the Durham defence all afternoon, spoke to Palatinate:
“It was a fantastic team performance against Loughborough, with every member of the sixteen strong squad playing their part,” she said. “In particular we took our chances when they came about and we minimised the biggest threats in their team, having undertaken a great deal of video analysis and focused training.”
Jules also commented on the day as a whole: “The atmosphere of the BUCS Varsity day was fantastic and to be competing against our greatest rivals with such a big crowd watching and other teams around us doing the same felt very special.”
Photograph: Matt Roberts