Investec Women’s Championship Playoffs 3rd/4th Place: Reading 6-0 Clifton.

Reading bounced back from the disappointment of yesterday’s semi-final defeat to Surbiton with a dominant display to hammer Clifton 6-0 to seal third place in the playoffs. A hat-trick from Becky Halle, two from Alex Danson and another from Jess Brooker did the damage as Clifton simply could not live with their opponents.

Reading scored from their first attack as Halle applied a lovely finishing touch to deflect a cross from the left into the far corner of the goal beyond Caitlin Jeffries. Within six minutes, the lead had doubled with Jeffries smothering at the near post only for Brooker to collect the loose ball and fire it into the far corner with a nice reverse stick finish. The Clifton goalkeeper then had to be alert to keep out a snap-shot from Danson but after nine minutes of the first quarter Steve Bayer’s side struck their third. Danson found space inside the D on the right and hit a trademark reverse stick beyond the goalkeeper to effectively end the game as a contest inside the first quarter. The Reading No15 went in search of more goals and was unlucky to see a reverse stick shot fly just wide of the far post.

At the start of the second quarter Danson notched her second turning in a cross from Halle. The league’s top scorer was relentless in her pursuit of more goals and crashed a blistering strike into the goalkeeper’s grill. On the stroke of half time, Danson turned provider, tormenting the Clifton defence before finding Halle who applied the finishing touch.

The third quarter was an altogether quieter period with both sides seemingly accepting the outcome of the game. The best chance fell to Brooker but she could not lift the ball over the goalkeeper who made a good save.

On 54 minutes, Reading scored their sixth goal with a slick penalty corner routine. Kate Richardson-Walsh slipped the ball to Leah Wilkinson whose pass was deflected in by Halle via the goalkeeper’s pads.

Clifton forced a penalty corner but Els Mansell could not keep her shot on target and then at the other end Jeffries made a fine save from Brooker’s strike. Danson had one last effort to complete her hat-trick but Jeffries again did well to keep it out.

Reading defender Leah Wilkinson could not hide her disappointment at yesterday’s semi final defeat, but told The Top of the D: “Yesterday was a really huge disappointment for us but with Europe to come we knew we needed to put a good performance in today and get back on track for that. Today we were focused on performance and nothing else. We were perhaps a bit nervous yesterday and it showed in the way we played. We’ve got plenty of quality in the side and it was important, mentally for us to rebuild a bit of confidence, which is what we did.” she added “People sometimes forget we’re not invincible. We do lose games sometimes and sometimes those losses motivate us to be better in the future. Hopefully this weekend will do just that.”

Reading have to content themselves with third place whilst Clifton wound up fourth.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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