Tough test facing Ipswich

AFTER fifth-placed Ipswich's good 4-1 win over Doncaster and third-placed Canterbury's 2-1 loss to Bowdon Hightown, only two points separate these teams in the Slazenger EHL Premier League.

AFTER fifth-placed Ipswich's good 4-1 win over Doncaster and third-placed Canterbury's 2-1 loss to Bowdon Hightown, only two points separate these teams in the Slazenger EHL Premier League.

Ipswich travel to Kent tomorrow for an 11.45am start at Polo Farm, knowing that a win would not only see them move ahead of their hosts but more importantly keep them within three points of that coveted second league spot and a place in Europe next season.

The last game between these sides was a cracker that saw Ipswich come out 4-3 winners after remarkable final 15-minute spell where they came from 3-1 down to score three goals; Jenny Hall completing a hat-trick by scoring the winner in the final minute. In fact, Ipswich have won four of the last five meetings between these sides, with the other game ending in a 1-1 draw.

Despite the recent good results the Suffolk team are fully aware of Canterbury's dangers.

England defender Mel Clewlow not only marshals her defence well but is also a danger from penalty corners, while ex-Ipswich striker Cathy Gilliat-Smith has a good scoring record against her old team and will be looking to continue that run tomorrow.

Ipswich though present their own dangers and Canterbury will be fully aware of Ipswich's main striking threat, Jenny Hall, having suffered from her goalscoring instinct in the last meeting.

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With Vic Sandall playing at the top of her game and Jo Ellis and Kate Hector controlling the midfield, Ipswich know they have more than enough ability to leave Kent with all three points.

Ipswich are also able to strengthen their squad from last weekend with, midfielder Emma Lee-Smith making a welcome return.

Coach Nick Thompson is looking forward to the game, saying: “Last week was probably our best overall team performance so far, if we reproduce that form then I have no doubt we will win on Saturday.”

This weekend Ipswich men make the trip west, crossing the border into Wales to face Whitchurch Hockey Club from Cardiff.

Ipswich will be looking to improve on their 6-4 defeat at the hands of third-placed Indian Gymkhana on Sunday. Unfortunately they will be missing key players in the skilful Phil Messant, who is on school duty, and the versatile Geoff Reed, who has family commitments.

Whitchurch, who are in sixth place, opened the second half of the season with a 3-2 victory over Birmingham University.

Their meetings with Ipswich last season were both stalemates, in contrast to their meeting earlier this campaign at Tuddenham Road, when Ipswich dominated the majority of the match but were finally overrun by the Welsh team's superior fitness, losing 5-1. This result signalled the end of Kath McDonald's reign at the helm of the club.

With the vast amount of players in Whitchurch's arsenal being full Welsh senior internationals, they will be looking for a smiliar result against the Suffolk side to continue their surge for surprise promotion candidates.

Ipswich go into this weekend knowing that a result in Cardiff is a distinct possibility and can take confidence from the new cohesion and team spirit throughout the squad.

However it has been a long time since Ipswich last won on a water-based pitch and they will be looking to put the record straight at Sofia Gardens (Welsh Institute of Sport) on Sunday.

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