Following a seven-hour drive from Eastbourne to Cheadle Hulme School, just south of Manchester, the girls rested overnight before the 12.00 noon start time for the Smile Group Travel Independent Schools Hockey Cup Semi-final.
The game started quickly with both teams pressing for the advantage. Katie Butler-Manuel’s deflection saw Eastbourne take the lead. Cheadle Hulme had a number of regional players who started to dominate the midfield. They forced a short corner and the deflected shot equalised just before half time, 1–1.
The second half was frantic with both sides working tremendously hard all over the pitch to create chances. Georgie Moore followed up a shot to pounce on the rebound to take Eastbourne into the lead again, 2–1. The opposition applied enormous pressure which resulted in them creating a number of chances but Eastbourne managed to keep them out. Cheadle converted a short corner to level the scores with about eight minutes to go and then had a further corner. Bex O’Dywer made a brilliant save to take the game into extra time – two five-minute halves.
Cheadle started strongest and went ahead with a well taken goal, 2–3. Eastbourne then applied pressure and forced errors which resulted in a series of short corners. Just on the stroke of half time, Holly Goble deflected in a smart pass from Phoebe Gale to level the scores 3–3 with five minutes to go. The final half of extra time saw chances missed at both ends and when the game ended at 3–3 the match would be decided on penalty flicks.
Eastbourne won the toss and elected to go first – best of five flicks. Natasha Gale scored and Bex O’Dwyer made a diving save to her right – Eastbourne 1–0. Phoebe Gale scored and Bex saved again, 2–0. Jess Lamb scored and Cheadle scored too, 3–1. Katie Butler-Manuel shot to to win the game but missed just wide of the left post! Cheadle needed to score to stay alive. Bex O’Dywer made a brilliant stick save that knocked the ball onto the post and Eastbourne won their place in the National Final.
An enormous thank you to the staff and parents that travelled up to Cheadle Hulme to support the girls.