Four years to the day since their last league defeat, Pendle Forest’s remarkable 87-game unbeaten run came to an end in Manchester on Saturday.
But Forest still sit six points clear at the top of the North Hockey Women’s League Premier Division with eight games to play.
Forest travelled to the Armitage Centre, knowing this was going to be no easy fixture against a tricky side.
Early possession and promising play by Forest saw them edge ever closer to scoring, and set a good tone, but strong tackling in the defensive Didsbury team denied the Forest shots from penetrating the goal line.
The Didsbury forwards had some skilful stick work of their own, pressurising the Forest defence and gaining a few penalty corners in succession.
On the third attempt, Lisa Crewe set off too early and was penalised and sent to the halfway line.
Didsbury capitalised on this, and with a set move, managed to split the Forest defence and went 1-0 ahead.
Forest went into the second half with intent, and worked their way up the pitch with shorter passing play.
A Didsbury player was then awarded a yellow card for stick tackling as they tried to thwart Forest’s attacks.
In the 64th minute, after continuous fouling from Didsbury, slowing down play, the hosts found themselves down to 10 players with another sin bin offence.
As the half went on, Didsbury saw less and less of their own attacking half, having to almost place all their players behind the ball in order to conserve their lead.
Forest’s defensive line was kept high, but a breakaway into the Forest D had to be dealt with and was easily snuffed out by player of the match Dani Hornby.
Further hard work from Olivia Bythell, when forcing the attack, was rewarded with possession in and around the D.
Then, committed play by Thea Cormack in tackles also saw her rewarded on several occasions with possession, helping to push Forest on.
Finally, it looked like the goal had come when, first, Charlotte Hartley had a shot on goal, followed by Steph Bedford, both saved, then the ball fell to Freya Bythell, who swept it in, on her reverse stick – only for the umpire to claiming it was hit with the back of the stick.
It was a tremendous team effort to keep the dream run alive, but it wasn’t to be as Forest suffered a rare loss.
Tomorrow, they play at home, with an 11-30 a.m. start against Liverpool Sefton.
Pendle Forest seconds hosted second place Longridge, who were three points clear.
Longridge monoplolising much of the attacking play for the first few minutes. A quick turn around from a free hit rocketed into D, to be calmly dealt with by Rebecca Whitham.
A settled Pendle found their attacking form with excellent interlinking play in midfield feeding the forward line to create several chances.
Forest came under pressue from long balls through midfield, and a hit out from Pendle was intercepted and driven to D. Jayne Kirkpatrick in the Pendle goal saved the initial strike, but the ball fell to a Longridge forward, whose mis-hit took it over the sliding keeper into the back of the net.
Pendle had numerous attempts driving into D, when a penalty corner was finally awarded. Judith Hind injected to Francesca Ratcliffe who slipped left to Cathy Kilgallon. Kilgallon’s textbook strike hit the backboard levelling up the match.
The game ended 1-1 – a hard-fought and well played match resulting in a fair result for both sides. Player of the match was Rebecca Whitham.