Home victory still elusive

HockeyIpswich Ladies 1 Clifton 1THE last time Ipswich Ladies won at home in the league was in November – and this game never looked likely to break that disappointing pattern (writes Martin White).

Ipswich Ladies 1 Clifton 1

THE last time Ipswich Ladies won at home in the league was in November – and this game never looked likely to break that disappointing pattern (writes Martin White).

Tuddenham Road used to be a stronghold but nowadays, cup matches excepted, it's the visiting teams who take away the lion's share of the points.

Victory would have given Ipswich the boost they so badly need and on the balance of play they deserved to win against a Clifton side skippered by one of their ex-players, Michelle Robertson.

Clifton are a side who flatter to deceive and on this showing it's hard to believe they occupy a top four slot in the Premier Division of the English Hockey League.

The fact that England manager Tricia Herbele was watching may have caused a few players to have an off-day and none more so than the west country side's starlet, Imogen Robertson.

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The club's leading scorer never troubled Jo Thompson, mainly because for long periods she was shackled by the outstanding Annette Strange.

When she got fed up with not being able to get past one highly experienced defender, she tried taking on another in Kirsten Spencer, but got no change out of her either.

With Leisa King, Colleen Adcock, Vicki Sandall and the combative Jo Ellis holding sway in midfield, Ipswich had more possession and thoroughly deserved their 15th minute lead.

From their first short corner, King slipped the ball to her right and Sarah Bamfield slammed it home.

Ipswich, who these days never look confident, gifted the ball to lanky substitute Caroline Marsden, but her weak shot, so typical of her team-mates, was easily dealt with by Jo Thompson.

Clifton didn't pass the ball they shovelled it and that led to moves breaking down and balls going straight to the opposition.

However, right on the stroke of half-time, they equalised when Strange was robbed by Imogen Robertson who set up Juliet Rayden to beat Thompson.

The lively Denise Marston-Smith came more into her own during the second half and while her Dennis Bergkamp-type turns beat the covering defender, they were often too far out to pose any danger.

While Ipswich had the better chances, they were unable to convert them and they now must wait for Chelmsford's visit on Sunday to rid themselves of their home form misery.

Leicester 1 Ipswich Ladies 2

BRIMMING with confidence after the previous day's draw, Ipswich showed Leicester just how good a side they can be.

Ipswich started attacking in style with Tanya Barnard and Sarah Bamfield getting the ball round the back of the Leicester defence and immediately causing the home side to play on the back foot.

Leicester's midfield couldn't get possession of the ball while Vicki Sandall and Leisa King dominated the midfield and send a continuous supply of passes through to the forwards.

King carved her way through the Leicester midfield for Bamfield to tap home the opening goal after 21 minutes while at the other end, Ipswich keeper Jo Thompson had only a handful of saves to make.

Leicester, who had been the Premier Division leaders, were crumbling under the pressure and Ipswich went further ahead four minutes after the interval.

Barnard was impeded as she tried to again get round the back of the defence and Kirsten Spencer thumped home the resultant short corner.

Leicester's international forwards, Purdy Miller and Jennie Bimson were totally ineffective and although Helen Richardson gave them some hope 18 minutes from time, the goal proved to be a consolation as battling Ipswich kept them easily at bay.

Had Ipswich lost, they would have slipped to the bottom of the Premier Division, but this should put them in good heart for their last five games, all of which they are capable of winning.

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