[img_assist|nid=8747|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=220|height=57]Bowdon Hightown and Reading secured their places in the final of the Women’s Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Championship at Wembley with thrilling semi final victories at Arena Sport Kettering on Saturday evening.
Bowdon needed a penalty shootout to defeat Canterbury in their semi final, while Reading had to rely on a goal from hat-trick hero Alex Danson in the last few seconds to beat Slough 4-3.
Canterbury opened up an early 2-0 lead in the first semi final with Nikki Kidd and Anna Baker on target, but Bowdon Hightown battled back to lead 3-2 at half time with Sally Walton, Susannah Townsend and Tina Cullen all scoring.
Cullen bagged a second goal to put Bowdon 4-2 ahead, before Canterbury hit back in dramatic fashion with goals from Mel Clewlow and Grace Balsdon to make it 4-4.
Sally Walton edged Bowdon ahead with a penalty stroke with three minutes remaining, but Kidd scored her second with a minute left to tie the match once again.
However, it was Bowdon Hightown who held their nerve to win the penalty shootout 2-1.
In the second semi final reigning champions Reading survived a dramatic late fightback from Slough to make it to Wembley once again.
Helen Richardson-Walsh scored after nine minutes, and two goals from Danson helped put Reading 3-0 ahead.
But Mel Ball pulled one back just before half time, and when Ashleigh Ball halved the deficit from a 32nd minute penalty corner, it was very much game on.
Alex Scott – whose many goals helped get Slough to the semi finals – scored on 36 minutes to tie the match. But Danson completed her hat-trick with 15 seconds remaining to break Slough hearts.
Afterwards, Reading captain Emma Thomas said: “Both semi finals were a great advert for the women’s game in England. Ours was a really tight game, but we’re absolutely thrilled to be going back to Wembley.
“We have to give great credit to Slough who put up a hell of a fight and showed what a good team they are. They also showed us a few things which we will need to work on before the final, but we were very determined and I’m really proud of the girls for getting over the line.”
And Fay Nash, Bowdon Hightown’s captain, said: “I’m absolutely beaming and I’m so proud of the girls, especially after what happened last year. After getting so close in the semi finals last year we felt we owed it to ourselves to get there this time out.
“We showed great belief and I can’t fault the commitment of every player on the pitch. Amy Tennant is a quality indoor player and a fantastic goalkeeper, we sometimes forget how young she is because of everything she achieved but we know, no matter what, we can rely on her to do the business. She did it in the 2011 final, and she did it again tonight.”
Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Championship, Women’s Premier Division semi finals: Bowdon Hightown 5, Canterbury 5 (Bowdon win 2-1 in penalty shootout); Reading 4, Slough 3.
Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Championship, Women’s Division One: Clifton 4, Surbiton 4; Chelmsford 3, Bristol Firebrands 5; Sevenoaks 2, Wakefield 5; Buckingham 3, Univ of Birmingham 7; Brooklands Poynton 0, Clifton 4; Surbiton 8, Chelmsford 1; Bristol Firebrands 3, Sevenoaks 2; Wakefield 2, Buckingham 3; Univ of Birmingham 5, Brooklands Poynton 3.
Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Championship, Men’s Division One: Cannock 4, Southgate 12; Old Loughtonians 4, Surbiton 10; Brooklands MU 10, Hampstead & Westminster 3; Havant 3, Bournville 6; Team Bath Buccaneers 7, Cannock 10; Southgate 7, Old Loughtonians 7; Surbiton 10, Brooklands MU 4; Hampstead & Westminster 2, Havant 1; Bournville 5, Team Bath Buccaneers 11.
National Schools Indoor Championships, Under-16 Girls Final: Repton School 3 Kent College 2. Under-16 Boys Final: Exeter School 2, Bromsgrove School 1.