All roads lead to the national final for Blueharts Hockey Club
- Credit: BLUEHARTS HOCKEY
Blueharts’ mixed team are through to the England Hockey National Finals after a convincing semi-final success.
Playing away to Leek, they returned from Staffordshire with a 4-1 victory, setting up a trip to Lee Valley next month.
They had a dominant start with Ellie Lederer and Harry Woods linking up well down the left wing and putting immediate pressure on the home side's defence.
The pair attacked the baseline and were awarded a penalty corner for their efforts and when the ball was fed back to injector Ben Bayley, he found the net via a near post deflection.
Sam Rees’ efforts against his old club saw him handed a green card and Blueharts down a player temporarily.
However, a second goal was quickly added by Rich Julian who scooped up the deflected ball and lifted it over the Leek keeper after he made a fine diving save.
The 2-0 half-time lead brought memories of the quarter-final success over Dereham although on that occasion it was the opposition who held the aces at the break.
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And mindful that comebacks can and do happen, the Hitchin side knew they needed to maintain the pressure as Leek would come out strong.
And Blueharts reacted well as the expected home pressure did arrive, helped by a change in formation.
James Byford was impassable in the Blues defence and although several short corners were awarded, Alex Ford made a series of exceptional saves that earned him the player of the match award.
As the frustrations grew within the Leek ranks, they too were carded for throwing their stick at a Blueharts player.
It didn't faze the visitors in the slightest though and even when the hosts pulled their goalkeeper for an outfield player, Blueharts continued to defend superbly.
There were more diving saves from Ford and Chris Nicholls made a goal-line clearance they added a third on the break, a shot going in off a defender's stick for an own goal.
That brought the keeper back into the fray but it made no difference as Harry Woods sealed the victory, making Leek's reply from a penalty corner in the closing minutes a mere consolation.