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Heroic Hampstead & Westminster recover from heartbreaking defeat to reach EH Cup final

Georgia Bayliff (left) celebrates her strike in Sunday's cup semi-final against Univerisyt of Birmingham. Pic: Mark Clews Georgia Bayliff (left) celebrates her strike in Sunday's cup semi-final against Univerisyt of Birmingham. Pic: Mark Clews

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
12:29 PM

It was a rollercoaster weekend for Hampstead & Westminster’s ladies as they recovered from a heartbreaking league defeat which cost them promotion and went on to achieve a giant-killing victory in the semi-finals of the English Hockey Association Cup.

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Emma Stocking (right) scored Hampstead & Westminster's winning goal in the EH Cup semi-final. Pic: Mark ClewsEmma Stocking (right) scored Hampstead & Westminster's winning goal in the EH Cup semi-final. Pic: Mark Clews

H&W hosted Maidenhead in the last game of the South Clubs’ Women’s Hockey League Division One campaign on Saturday as the top two teams went head to head.

Hampstead were narrowly ahead on goal difference at the start of the day, so Maidenhead needed an away win to leapfrog them into top spot.

The visitors opened the scoring at Paddington Recreation Ground, but their lead was short-lived as good work from Georgia Bayliff, Juliet Chapman and Alice Garrard enabled Natasha Price to force the ball home from close range.

Hampstead almost grabbed a dramatic winner in the second half, hitting the post – but, with less than three minutes left, disaster struck.

Maidenhead were awarded a free hit outside the 23-metre line, allowing them to lump the ball into the D – and it found its way into the goal.

The officials were unsure whether the ball had got a crucial touch, and they called two time-outs to decide Hampstead’s entire league campaign. To the home side’s dismay, a goal was awarded – and there was no time to recover.

There was little time to dwell on that devastating defeat, though, because the following day H&W travelled to face Premier Division outfit University of Birmingham in the final four of the EH Cup.

Hampstead had never previously made it into the last eight, let alone the semi-finals. And, given their exertions and disappointment the previous day, they faced a tough challenge, away against a team who play two divisions above them – but the visitors produced another stunning victory, triumphing 3-2.

Hampstead hounded their hosts from the off and, when they won an early corner, Annebeth Wijtenburg calmly controlled the ball and launched it past the Birmingham keeper to give her side the lead.

The home side’s reaction was swift and, three minutes later, Great Britain international Lily Owlsley embarked on a strong 35-yard run and finished with aplomb, leaving the sides level at the break.

Hampstead maintained their intensity after the interval and regained the lead through Bayliff, but Birmingham responded again, having a goal disallowed before equalising for a second time.

Yet H&W kept their belief and came back, with their midfield quartet fighting for every ball and giving their side the upper hand.

And, 10 minutes from time, Emma Stocking dived to hit the winner on her reverse stick to book a final showdown with Premier Division outfit Surbiton on April 26.

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