By Tom Jeffery
Marlborough u10 girls find their rhythm and pace on a sunny afternoon in Cheltenham
Driving up the A419 I felt a little disorientated. The sun was beating down and it was pleasantly warm. This couldn't be Cheltenham hockey, surely? Not in February?
As we got ready, one of the Marlborough players flatly refused to play without her hoody on, complaining of the cold. But Jane soon had the players warmed up and with Hetty padded up in goal we were ready to play.
Cheltenham were up first and showed their customary class. Ellie and Georgie in defence were immediately put under pressure and the pace didn't let up. Top marks to these two, they worked tirelessly to clear the ball out from the goal area to Annie and Annabelle on the wings. In the end the match fell 2-0 to Cheltenham.
Cirencester followed straight after, and despite feeling the heat it was a closer match. The back 3 stayed the same, but some re-shuffling in the midfield and forwards saw Marlborough making more use of the ball. Phoebe worked hard in mid to feed the ball through to Minnie and Annabelle (who shared centre forward for the game). No goals for Marlborough, sadly, but 1-0 for Cirencester.
A break of a couple of matches gave enough time for Kitty to volunteer to play in goal, against Cheltenham again. Cheltenham slapped in two rather good goals in the first minute or two, and it is a real credit to Kitty that she came back stronger to put in some very impressive saves through rest of the game. With Hetty showing her skill in midfield, and with Georgie and Ellie playing strongly in either wing, Marlborough were able to play the ball up the pitch to trouble the Cheltenham goalkeeper. Full marks were due to Zara, Phoebe's younger sister, for showing herself more than capable of taking on a good team of older players. Minnie put in some very fast runs and was rewarded with a goal. 3-1 to Cheltenham, but Marlborough had found that they could score and clearly wanted to do it again.
Next up were Wotton under Edge, who did look rather hot! It didn't take long for the Marlborough girls to show what they could do. Annabelle and Kitty played assuredly in defence, clearing the ball out to Minnie and Annie on the wings. Hetty was again in midfield, making great passes forward to Phoebe upfront. Minnie opened the scoring, and was swiftly followed by Annie (who scored 3). After Hetty had given way to let Ellie onto the pitch, Ellie showed her determination and knocked in a couple of goals. 6-0 to Marlborough.
Our last match was more of the same high standard. With the players having found their roles, their confidence grew; tackles were more successful, passes were more accurate and players put themselves in good positions. Most notable of all was the communication between the girls - calling for passes and truly playing as a team. The team got its just reward, conceding only one goal in a game that was a thrilling display of end-to-end hockey. To Landowne's one, Phoebe scored two goals and Minnie another. 3-1 to Marlborough.
This was a team in which every player should be proud. Determination, high work rate (very hot-looking players at the end of each match!) and most of all teamwork. Well done girls!