THE Ladies of Milton Keynes Hockey Club made their dream weekend come true as they booked their place in the final of the Investec Vase and moved a step closer to promotion to the Southern Region League.
Playing twice in two days at Woughton on the Green, the Ladies saw off Aylesbury 4-2 on Saturday to maintain their push for the TrySports Premier Division 1 title, and then thrashed Durham City 7-1 to reach the final of the Vase for the first time in the club’s history on Sunday.
They now meet Surrey side Oxted in the final at Reading Hockey Club on April 14, a week before their final game of the league season, with promotion to the highest level the Ladies have ever played at the target.
Captain Sophie Reynolds was once again inspirational as she maintained her stunning record of scoring a hat-trick in every round of the Vase, after also netting twice to help MK beat Aylesbury – taking her goal tally for the season to 45 in all competitions.
With the support of a large crowd behind them and full of confidence after Saturday’s league win, MK began to pile the pressure on their visitors from the off – taking the lead after a few minutes through Reynolds who converted a penalty corner.
Hungry for more goals, MK began to play some fine linking hockey, however Durham capitalised on a wayward pass to bring the scores level.
Knowing that a place in the final wasn’t just going to be handed to them, MK upped their game with some great work in midfield from player of the match Laura Browne and some fine runs from Karmel Bracken, Jess Barnes and Chrissy Little,
And their intensity paid off five minutes before half time when Reynolds found the net for a second time to give the hosts the lead going into the break.
Returning to the pitch following a half time team talk from coach Sue Sutton, MK knew a place in the final was theirs if they didn’t concede an equaliser, but they were not just content with a single goal lead and went in search of more.
With Durham chasing the game, MK were able to create chance after chance, and they made it 3-1 in style as Lou Reynolds volleyed a bouncing ball past the visiting keeper just after the interval.
Playing with confidence and composure, MK restricted Durham to only a handful of half-chances – meaning goalkeeper Laura Pellington-Woodrow was rarely tested in the second half as Sarah Lowry and Dee Davis defended well in front of her.
Reynolds rounded off her fourth hat-trick in the competition with a reverse stick strike to increase MK’s lead to 4-1, and they didn’t stop as the hosts found the back of net three more times in the final 10 minutes.
With Helen Cooke making some superb driving runs and linking well with Reynolds and Browne, Gemma Meredith fired home to make it 5-1, before Karmel Bracken and Ellie Walsh completed the scoring late on.
Aylesbury were no match for the Ladies 24-hours earlier as the city side fought back to secure a 4-2 home win which keeps them fourth in the league table, but well placed to leapfrog the three sides above them if they win their remaining games.
However, the game didn’t start according to plan as the visitors hit MK on the break to take an early lead – and the hosts were well and truly shocked only a couple of minutes later when Aylesbury doubled their lead.
Seeing three crucial points slipping away from them, MK upped their game in search of a way back into it, and managed to pull a goal back just before half time as Meredith tapped in an excellent ball from Bracken.
MK returned to dominate the second half, with some great work through midfield from Browne leading to a string of penalty corners – one of which Lowry fired home to level the scores.
Stretching the visiting defence all over the place, there was only going to be one winner now and MK soon grabbed the lead through Reynolds who lashed home a penalty corner to make it 3-2.
And victory was sealed with five minutes remaining as the skipper scored her second of the game to keep MK on course to secure the league title, with two wins from their last two games set to seal their promotion.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” said captain Sophie Reynolds. “They could not have given any more and we were by far the better team.
“It was a fun game to play in and we had great support from the sidelines. We have another league game before the cup final and then our last game a week later, so the double is still up for grabs.”
The club’s Men also still have all to play for this season – but unfortunately they’re fighting to simply stay in their league after two further defeats.
They made the trip south for a weekend double-header against Chichester and Eastbourne. A Richard Townsend goal was all they had to show for their 4-1 defeat to Chichester before Stephen Ruse scored in a 5-1 loss at Eastbourne, keeping MK just one point above the relegation zone going into their final game of the season. Only a final day win will guarantee the men survival.
The Men’s 2nds enjoyed a 4-3 win against Wokingham while the 3rds had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Wokingham 2nds.
The 4ths suffered a 5-1 defeat to Gerrards Cross and the 5ths were beaten in a 10-goal thriller by local rivals Leighton Buzzard, as the Ladies’ 2nds thrashed Wokingham 7-1.