The second weekend of the Women’s Maxinutrition Hockey 5s is just days away as the crème de la crème of England’s domestic teams return to Bromsgrove to find out which teams will advance to the semi finals. After the first weekend in December, Slough sit proudly top of the table after an unbeaten first two days. Bowdon Hightown and Reading are in hot pursuit, whilst Canterbury occupy the final qualification place. Indoor is an unpredictable game, however, so there are still likely to be plenty of twists and turns before all is said and done. The Top of the D gives you the lowdown on some of the players to look out for this coming weekend:
Alex Scott, Slough.
Whilst the temptation would be to highlight Slough’s excellent defensive capabilities (fewest goals conceded, with just six across the opening four games) and the role played in that by superstar goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, it would be unfair to overlook the contribution of Alex Scott. The 30-year-old chipped in with ten goals over the course of the opening weekend, making her the competition’s second highest scorer. Slough played some excellent counter-attacking hockey and with hat-tricks in the wins over Canterbury and East Grinstead, Scott showed a keen predatory instinct and a cool head in front of goal. With Slough there to be shot at in first place, Scott’s ability to convert the chances she gets could prove pivotal.
Sally Walton, Bowdon Hightown.
Although Walton has decided to play her hockey outdoors for Wakefield this season she has returned to the Hightown ranks for the indoor campaign. The 32-year-old is a fantastic defender who regularly impresses against the best in the world at international level. She is composed on the ball, an excellent tackler and as she has showed before, she has a pretty decent eye for goal, especially in the indoor game. Walton scored nine times in the first weekend, and is currently Bowdon’s top scorer ahead of Tina Cullen by one. Anyone outscoring Cullen is doing OK.
Helen Richardson-Walsh, Reading.
Richardson-Walsh was the difference in the final last year as her four goals fired Reading to Wembley glory over Sutton Coldfield. Despite recently returning from long term injury she appears to have picked up exactly where she left off. Richardson-Walsh is a class act, no doubt. Her skill on the ball is outstanding and her vision and ability to make a killer pass ensure she is a vital cog in the Reading machine. With seven of the Sonning Lane side’s 24 goals coming from her in the first weekend she showed she still knows where the goal is, too.
Kidd has been arguably the signing of the season since she made the move south to Polo Farm. Already enjoying a wonderful season outdoors, the 26-year-old was in inspired form indoors, linking up almost telepathically with international teammate Nikki Lloyd as both scored goals and racked up a series of assists with some lovely movement and passing. Kidd is a relentless force on the hockey pitch, as shown when she helped herself to six goals in the 11-4 demolition of Olton and West Warwicks. She currently leads the scorer’s charts with 11 in four games, but there is much more to her game than just scoring. She will definitely have huge say in Canterbury’s quest to reach Wembley.
Becky Batsford, Sutton Coldfield.
Sutton sit just outside the top four on goal difference but will be more than just hopeful of grabbing a semi-final berth and maybe moving on to the final like they did last year. So far, they have seemingly found goals hard to come by with only the bottom three scoring fewer than the 13 the Mighty Pinks have mustered. When scoring goals is a problem, keeping them out becomes even more important. In Becky Batsford, Sutton have a hugely talented young goalkeeper who is more than capable of doing just that. The 24-year-old has showed her ability time and again, with the first week of the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s being no exception. Notably, she kept her side in front with crucial saves in the 3-2 win over Leicester and the 4-2 win over Harleston Magpies. If she can continue her outstanding form, Sutton have every chance of another semi final.
Kirsty Mackay, East Grinstead.
Despite positive results against Bowdon Hightown and Olton, East Grinstead endured a tough first weekend in the Premier League. A heavy defeat against Reading and a 5-0 loss to Slough left them on four points going into the second weekend. Their standout performer was undoubtedly England goalkeeper Kirsty Mackay. The former Bowdon Hightown stopper put in a series of terrific displays and without her efforts the defeats on day two could have been even heavier. Her teammates are relatively new to this level so Mackay’s experience both domestic and international will be vital in helping the Sussex side to secure another season in the top flight.
Emma Lee-Smith, Harleston Magpies.
Harleston’s captain led by example as she scored a hat-trick in her side’s 4-3 win over Leicester, thus far their only victory in the competition. Magpies sit just above the two relegation places going into the second weekend. The skipper came up with over half her team’s goals, scoring six times in week one and it is clear Lee-Smith will do everything she can to drive her team towards another season in the Premier League.
Vanessa Hawkins, Leicester.
Leicester had a miserable time of it in the first week. Semi finalists last year, the Pukkas found the going tough as they lost each of their opening four games this time out. Goals were a real problem as they netted just seven times, the lowest in the competition. All is not lost, however. There is plenty of experience and quality in the Pukkas’ ranks, including skipper Vanessa Hawkins. Hawkins has been there and done it. Her big game experience, skills and eye for goal will be a huge asset as David Mayer’s side aim to pick up maximum points in the second weekend.
Amie Hone, Olton and West Warwicks.
Hone is fairly new to the indoor arena but she took to the game with typical tenacity and grit. The diminutive Olton midfielder scraps for everything and works as hard as anyone else on the pitch, if not harder. Her never-say-die attitude was one of the highlights for the team as Hone bagged a hat-trick in the defeat to Canterbury. Despite their best efforts, Olton sit bottom of the table approaching the second weekend of competition. If they are to slip out of the top flight, don’t expect their No.16 to go quietly.
You can find out all the information you need to know, including how to get tickets to the finals at Wembley by visiting the England Hockey Website.