Sunday, December 10, 2023

Rio Olympian hails Witney after first win

Olympic gold medallist Susannah Townsend was full of praise for Witney women, as the Lambs beat her Canterbury side 2-1 in Kent on Saturday for their first ever win in the second tier of English hockey.

Sunny Wallis and Abi Flory, with a penalty stroke, scored the crucial goals to secure a deserved win in Division 1 South, according to Townsend.

“They put up a good fight,” Townsend said. “And you can tell when you play teams that haven’t got many points on the board, they bring that fight that every team should bring. We actually played quite well. We had our chances, we didn’t take them.

“Looking at the whole game, they probably deserved the win. As much as we can say that we played well and had our chances, at the end of the day if you don’t score you don’t deserve it. It was a tough game for us.

“I liked the way [Witney] opened the pitch up. Simple hockey wins every day, for me. They play a simple game very well and the best teams in the world do that. If you have every single player on the same page and you’re all doing your jobs then you should win a game and they did that today. They all worked hard for each other and that is the definition of a team.”

Witney took their first lead of the season six minutes into the second half when Wallis pounced to score after Emily Dove drove the ball into the shooting circle.

And they had the chance to make it 2-0 shortly afterwards after a goalbound shot hit a defender’s body, but Alys Richards’ penalty stroke was saved by Canterbury goalkeeper Aurora Mears.

The home side had a chance from the spot themselves, but Canterbury’s Lucy Barnes pushed her stroke wide and goalkeeper Olivia Clark made three great saves, maintaining Witney’s slender lead at half-time.

Emily Munsey, who played in goal for the first and third quarters with Clark the second and fourth, was on top form early in the second half, but pressure told eight minutes into the third quarter when Barnes equalised.

But Flory won a stroke herself when she was shoved over in the first minute of the fourth quarter, converting herself to restore Witney’s lead. And defender Molly Larkin sealed a win that impressed Rio hero Townsend by deflecting a penalty corner high and wide late on.

“The whole of the midfield dealt with me well,” Townsend admitted. “I couldn’t get on the ball as much as I would have liked. They packed the middle, stopped us outside the D and made us go wide. We are traditionally quite a direct team, so they certainly did their homework.”

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