Century of goals completed
Norwich Union 1, Dereham Ladies 13It was an epic encounter. For the home side, who face an uncertain future, it was their final game at the legendary Pinebanks pitch.
Norwich Union 1, Dereham Ladies 13
It was an epic encounter. For the home side, who face an uncertain future, it was their final game at the legendary Pinebanks pitch. For the visitors, having already secured promotion, it was a chance to step ever closer to an unbeaten season and a goal tally of 100.
The game was played at a tremendous pace, with each side complementing the other's style, allowing some beautiful hockey to be played. It was this stretched and open play which allowed Dereham's Evie Van Poortvliet to find enough space to open the scoring after just five minutes.
The second goal followed three minutes later, when an exact through-ball from Donna Causton found its way to Van Poortvliet, who set it up beautifully for Holly Allen to make it 2-0.
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Union worked tirelessly throughout and Dereham often found themselves under pressure and were sometimes caught out by the pacey Norwich forwards.
The visitors made it three when Hannah Palmer got on the end of a fabulous ball from Eve Settle. This was followed shortly afterwards with a cracking Causton short corner to make it four. There was just enough time for Palmer to poach her second, and the fifth goal of the game, before the whistle signalled the end of the first half.
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It was all Norwich for the first five minutes after the re-start. Dereham were pressed right back and looked in danger of conceding, before a break saw them earn a short corner. Georgie Edwards, who got her second a few minutes later, turned Causton's strike into the goal.
The champions were sharing the chances unselfishly between themselves, and it was Rachel Fisher's turn next, followed shortly by Edwards' hat-trick to make it 9-0.
Knowing they were on the brink of a special achievement, it couldn't have fallen to a better person to score Dereham's 10th of the game and 100th of the season. Evie Van Poortvliet flew up the pitch and dodged around three players before she turned a reverse hit past the helpless goalkeeper, much to the delight of the travelling supporters.
Dereham captain Steph Savage struck a sweet short corner to make it 11, then it was Palmer's turn to get her hat-trick for the 12th.
Norwich's spirit was commendable - heads remained high and every ball was contested. Despite the score-line, they continued to press their opponents, earned some short corners and forced several saves from the Dereham keeper. Their hard work paid off as they got a goal back, which is something that few teams have managed this season.
The final, and certainly not unlucky, goal came from a powerfully dipping short-corner strike from Sam Skelton to make it 13.
Dereham's final game of the season follows next week's Easter break and is away at second placed Lowestoft.
UEA 4, Dereham Colts 3
THE last league game of the season saw the Colts face a loaded UEA side fighting to save themselves from relegation.
Despite Dereham keeping most of the possession and playing some good hockey, the score at half-time saw the Colts 3-0 down.
The determined UEA took their chances at short corners well and capitalised on the mistakes.
The second half produced a stronger performance and the Colts put in their best work rate of the whole season. The defence looked tighter, and centre back Heather Morgan charged down several short corner strikes, preventing UEA from putting the game out of Dereham's reach.
Rachel Lavers at centre mid did an excellent close-marking job on the UEA playmaker in midfield, and the good hockey Dereham tried to create in the first half started to come together.
Right mid Polly Lockhart, took a quick free-hit down the wing, to centre forward Jess Shand who picked up the ball, beat the UEA defender, drove into the circle along the base line, and fired across the goal. Juliette Richardson came storming into the D and swept the ball into the UEA goal, completing the best move of the game.
The next goal came from good play by Ellie Boyce, who worked tirelessly on the left wing to earn herself joint player of the match. Collecting the ball just inside the UEA half, Boyce charged forward, beating several players before playing a dangerous ball into the circle. UEA could only clear it as far as Charlotte Dann who drove into the D and shot again. This time the rebound fell to the perfectly placed Shand who made no mistake in slotting the ball past the recovering UEA goalkeeper.
Colts pushed on and got caught on the break. Dereham worked until the end. Shand finished off her joint player of the match performance by adding another goal to her impressive season tally. In an individual run she beat several defenders and the goalie easily.
So a disappointing end to what was a rollercoaster season for Dereham. The Colts can reflect on an improved league position compared with last season, and can look forward to an even better finish next campaign.
Team: Ellie Boyce, Emily Crisp, Charlotte Dann, Helen Kiddle-Morris, Beanie Hazel (GK), Rachel Lavers, Polly Lockhart, Heather Morgan (captain), Charlotte Reeve, Juliette Richardson, Jess Shand, Hannah Turner.