After winning promotion last year, Pendle Forest thirds claimed third place in the Lancashire Central Women’s Hockey League Division One with a 2-1 win over Fylde on Sunday.
Pendle had to play their scheduled home fixture at their opposition’s pitch at Preston, due to a flooded Marsden Heights.
The locals started the day in fourth position, against Fylde in fifth, and only a win would give them a chance of ending the season in third place.
Pendle made a sharp start as player of the match Cath Hutchinson led by example, winning all her tackles in midfield.
The increasingly useful combination of Hutchinson and Rebecca Whitham-Kay in midfield worked well, and both were able to spread the ball wide to Emily Dunleavy and Diane McInnes to latch on to and take forwards, before crossing in for strikers Judy Bentham, Fran Cesc Ratcliffe and Claire Louise Birkett.
Bentham worked hard on the forward line in her last match for Pendle, and was unlucky not to connect with the through balls.
She did, however, take the defender with her, leaving a gap for Ratcliffe to run through. A great run from Ratcliffe took her into the D, but robust defending by Fylde cut out the danger.
Ratcliffe was found by McInnes with a diagonal cross from the right, and Ratcliffe gave her all as she dived to connect with the ball, and was unlucky to see it go a foot wide.
Fylde played good hockey of their own, but solid, confident defending from the back four of Rosie Southworth, Paula Markham, Gemma Smith and Amy Trickett meant nothing was getting through.
It was against the run of play that Fylde scored after a fluke deflection. The striker shot and the defender blocked, but the ball looped goalwards. Keeper Jane Lofthouse blocked with her chest, but the ball deflected upwards, over her head and into the back of the net.
In the second half, Julie Findon fought for every ball on her introduction, and with the fresh legs of Zoe Kidney, the pair gave Pendle a new edge.
Kidney played an aerial ball into the D, where Fylde cleared, but gave away a penalty corner.
McInnes hit out to Southworth, who hammered just wide. A second penalty corner was also well-worked, but Forest couldn’t finish.
It took a long corner to get Pendle the goal they deserved.
McInnes self passed, and after moving the required five metres, hammered the ball to Birkett, who, with her back to goal, cushioned the ball and neatly played it into the far corner to level the score.
The evergreen Hutchinson sealed the deal as the keeper saved Birkett’s strike with a diving block, but Hutchinson lifted the ball over the keeper’s pads to make it 2-1.
l Pendle Forest first team’s final game of the league season on Saturday was abandoned at half-time due to a waterlogged pitch.
Forest, already winners of the North Hockey Women’s League
Division 2 North West, were leading 1-0 against Lancaster at Marsden Heights as they looked to make it 22 wins from 22 games.
They will replay the game tomorrow at 1-30 p.m.
Forest will then aim to make it third time lucky in the promotion play-offs as they aim for a place in Division 1.
They host Boston Spa on April 8th, before a trip to Cheshire to face Deeside Ramblers on the 22nd, and, finally, take on Morpeth at Wakefield on the 29th.
The top two sides in the round-robin will be promoted.
l It was the end of an era on Sunday as Pendle Forest’s stalwart sweeper Judy Bentham retired from league hockey.
Judy played her last match for Pendle thirds as they beat Fylde 2-1 in Preston, to finish third in the Lancashire Central Women’s Hockey League Division One, after promotion last season.
She started playing at the age of eight in Glasgow, and by her early teens was playing first team hockey at Poynton.
Back in the day, she was a forward and very able at netting a goal.
In her twenties Judy played for Congleton, before moving to Burnley and settling in the area.
Judy was loved and respected at Burnley.
Not only was she a great player, she was the treasurer, and she began to bake biscuits for the after match refreshments.
By now Judy had done a stint in midfield before becoming one of the best defenders in the Lancashire Central Hockey League.
She became well known for her jabbing tackle – as well as her biscuits!
When Burnley folded, Judy joined Nelson, which became Pendle Forest.
On her arrival, she played sweeper for the fourth team, a position she kept for over 20 years.
Always a team player, Judy nurtured and encouraged all newcomers and youngsters.
More recently, she has spent her time playing with her beloved third team at Pendle, where she was always armed with the home-made biscuits and coffee for the umpires.
Visiting teams often said: “ Is the lady with the biscuits playing?” They weren’t as thankful when she was playing and tackled them with her clinical jab!
Judy was asked for a high point of her hockey years and she said: “It has to be scoring a goal at Lancaster University when I was put up front!”
Judy’s commitment to the sport she loves is second to none, and there’s no doubt she’ll be missed. However, Judy has already stated she’ll be on the sideline cheering Pendle on next season.