Ipswich on revenge mission in cup

IPSWICH travel to Reading today to prepare for one of the biggest weekends of their season. Having finished sixth in the Slazenger EHL Premier League the Suffolk side would love nothing better than to end their season by winning the England Hockey National Cup.

IPSWICH travel to Reading today to prepare for one of the biggest weekends of their season.

Having finished sixth in the Slazenger EHL Premier League the Suffolk side would love nothing better than to end their season by winning the England Hockey National Cup.

Claiming the title will be no easy task though as Ipswich must get past a Bowdon Hightown team that beat them 6-1 only three weeks ago and then in all likelihood beat league runners-up Slough, who play Division One side Poynton in the first semi-final.

Tomorrow's match against Bowdon, start 12.30pm, is a re-run of the indoor semi-final, which Ipswich lost on penalty strokes after the game ended 6-6. With that defeat still in mind Ipswich will be keen to get revenge over opponents and in a one off game the Suffolk side are more than capable of pulling off a shock win.

South African international Kate Hector will be back in the team after missing last week's game and for the first time in many weeks Ipswich should have a fully fit squad for coach Nick Thompson to select from. With Emma-Lee Smith and Jo Ellis combining well last weekend it will be a tough call for Thompson to decide on his best formation, but his decision will be crucial to the result.

How Ipswich deal with Bowdon's and the leagues top scorer, Tina Cullen, will also be key to the final result. The last time the teams met Ipswich were without experienced defender Kirsten Spencer and her added understanding of dealing with Cullen could be the solution in keeping the prolific scorer at bay.

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Whatever happens at the weekend it also will be the end of an era for the most successful club in the East of England as they play their last games under the guidance of coach Nick Thompson and assistant coach Sandie Lister. Thompson has been coach at Ipswich for a total of six seasons over a nine-year period and during that time he has guided the team to second in the league, winners of the Premiership Cup and runners-up in the Indoor National Finals.

A supremely talented player himself he is still playing in the Slazenger EHL Division One with Old Georgians and it is their success this season that has played a part in his stepping down as Ipswich coach, as he will not be able to combine both playing and coaching both sides. His tactical knowledge and coaching skills will be greatly missed by the team and he will be a hard act to follow.

Sandie Lister's break from coaching will also hit the team hard, Lister is probably the most legendary name associated with Ipswich Hockey Club and has served the club admirably as both a player and coach over three decades.

As a player she led the team to National titles, Cup titles and two European medals and her coaching career has been no less illustrious, with probably the EH Cup win of 2002 her finest hour. Her dedication to the club is an inspiration and the entire team wish her well as she takes a well earned break from hockey.

Words really become insignificant when trying to sum up the contribution both these people have made to Ipswich Hockey Club and hockey in England and perhaps the most fitting way to mark their departure would be for the Ipswich Team to bring the Cup home to Suffolk on Sunday evening.

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