Rare league defeat won’t rain on Pendle’s Forest’s parade

Lisa Crewe
Lisa Crewe
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Pendle Forest captain Dani Hornby believes the end of their 87-game unbeaten streak will have little bearing on their bid to play hockey at national level next season.

Their 1-0 defeat to Didsbury Northern Ladies in mid-January was their first setback in four years but they remain on course to win the North Hockey Women’s League Premier Division.

A frozen pitch on Saturday saw their game against third-placed Alderley Edge rearranged to the end of the campaign.

“Hopefully, in terms of winning the league, we’ll have done that before the game,” she explained, seeing the postponement of a potentially difficult fixture as an opportunity for her side. An England Hockey restructure means that Pendle Forest only need a top-four finish to secure promotion to the National League for the first time, but they have been sat at the top of the pile since the opening day of the term.

Hornby believes the long spell without defeat had more of an impact off the pitch than on the team themselves, but admitted: “Losing that game took a monkey off our backs.”

The prospect of continuing their unbeaten run added little pressure to a side that was already committed to winning every game, and gaining promotion and winning the league remained their chief priorities.

“For us as players it’s always been about being competitive,” Hornby continued. “But everybody around the club wanted to know how many games we were unbeaten. It was the main topic of conversation.”

Such a strong run of results has seen the club promoted twice since 2017, a feat Hornby sees as particularly impressive for a side from East Lancashire without much hockey heritage or infrastructure.

“We’re just a bunch of people who love playing hockey.

“We look at the big clubs and their facilities and we can only dream of that. If that were to happen here as a result of our success we’d love that, but we’re realistic. Hockey isn’t really played round here.”

Nevertheless the achievement of 87 league games unbeaten raised the profile of the club, and Hornby has been encouraged by the influx of junior players.

Aside from securing promotion and winning their league, Pendle Forest are keen to keep the momentum going and recruit new members.

With seven games to go until the end of the season the side are six points clear at the top of the table, and face 11th-placed Kirkby Stephen Ladies on Saturday.