Double challenge ahead for ladies

AFTER two disappointing draws last weekend Ipswich are keen to address the balance and will be looking for a marked improvement in team performance and results this weekend.

AFTER two disappointing draws last weekend Ipswich are keen to address the balance and will be looking for a marked improvement in team performance and results this weekend.

Today they welcome eighth-placed Olton to Tuddenham Road (start 12.30pm) for what is sure to be a hotly-contested match.

The last outdoor game between these sides saw several contentious issues, probably the worst being when a goal was awarded after the ball went off the pitch and hit the wheel by the side of the goal then bounced back in play.

Ipswich lost that game but Olton have been struggling in the league since, a fact that is amazing when you look at the calibre of their midfield, which includes three England players, Kerry Moore, Rachel Walker and Lucilla Wright.

There is no doubt that, despite their lowly position, the visitors will give Ipswich a tough test.

After a bruising last weekend Ipswich physio Debbie Golding has been very busy and the team will hope all injured players will have managed to shake of any niggles. Midfielder Vic Sandall is the only real doubt, and she will take a late fitness test to see if her back has healed sufficiently.

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Ipswich have to go back to October 2004 before they last recorded a home win over Olton, but striker Emma Millar and Jo Ellis scored three of the goals in a 6-3 victory then and with both those players scoring last weekend, the timing could be right for a repeat performance.

With fifth-placed Chelmsford not playing this weekend, a win would see Ipswich close the gap to one point, with the teams due to meet next weekend.

Tonight Ipswich face the long journey north to Liverpool as they prepare to play Slazenger EHL North Division side Liverpool Sefton in the cup quarter-finals (start noon) tomorrow.

Sefton sit sixth in their league and have had a mixed season, but have enjoyed a great cup run, knocking out Division One opposition in the shape of Loughborough Students.

Ipswich will obviously start the game as favourites but know that they cannot afford to take their opponents lightly, especially as there will be no pressure on them.

Ipswich will hope to travel with a full squad and, barring injuries from tomorrow's game, they will be able to field a first choice team.

The winners will earn a place in the semi-finals to be held at Reading HC on Saturday, March 31, with the final the next day.

The last time Ipswich reached a semi-final back in 2002 they won the event, beating Olton in the golden goal period.

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