A splendid display from Holcombe gave the Kent side one foot in the Premier League going into the final game of the playoffs as they swept aside Buckingham with a crushing 6-0 victory.
Five different goalscorers did the damage as top scorer Megan Frazer grabbed two to add to strikes from Leigh Maasdorp, Lauren Osborn, Laura Unsworth and Nikki Daly.
Holcombe gave themselves the perfect start after six minutes. Maasdorp seized on a loose ball at the top of the D and fired a lovely low shot into the bottom corner. It got even worse for Buckingham just eight minutes later as Osborn supplied a confident finish to double the lead after a good cutback from the baseline.
Steph Elliott was dominating the middle of the pitch, breaking the play up when defending and spraying some lovely passes out to both flanks as Holcombe stamped their authority on the contest. Maddie Hinch was called upon to turn over a deflection from Jess Bloom and then to keep out a penalty corner from Zoe Shipperley but it was an otherwise quiet first half for the Great Britain No1.
Buckingham forced a penalty corner at the start of the second period but Julia Cass was out like lightning to charge down the shot. At the other end Elliot went close, flashing a shot wide of the far post from the right of the D as Holcombe pushed hard for a vital third goal. That goal came on 58 minutes. Elliot and Frazer swapped passes on the penalty corner and the East Conference’s top scorer found the net via a deflection. That was the start of a nine minute blitz and the Kent side ran riot. Unsworth found the net with a superb reverse stick shot after Frazer’s penalty corner had been saved and then Frazer herself beat Ann Searle with a fierce low penalty corner strike to the goalkeeper’s left. Hinch did well to repel another penalty corner from Shipperley to preserve her team’s clean sheet.
With three minutes left Holcombe added a sixth with a stroke of good fortune. Shelley Russell appeared to tread on the ball in the build up but it was not spotted by the umpires. Russell slid the ball into the D where Daly produced a lovely finish, lifting the ball over the goalkeeper to make it 6-0.
Laura Unsworth, Holcombe’s No4 told The Top of the D afterwards: “We knew we had to come here and win today but to come away with 6-0 puts us in a great position for tomorrow. I think everything clicked and we worked well as a team. When we do that we know we can play some really good hockey.”
Holcombe now have their fate in their own hands as they know a win against Brooklands tomorrow will secure promotion. Buckingham will have to bounce back in what is shaping up to be a winner-takes-clash with Sutton Coldfield.