Ulverston 0 - Garstang 2
Garstang Ladies Hockey Club started their Northern Hockey League campaign with a well-deserved win at Ulverston.
Ulverston, like Garstang, was promoted this year, and was unbeaten the previous season in the Cumbrian Senior Division.
From the push-back, Garstang went on the attack, and held Ulverston in their area for virtually the whole of the first half, with the Garstang keeper Sarah Skelton taking no part in play whatsoever.
Despite the continuous pressure, Ulverston showed why they had only conceded 14 goals in 22 games last season, with a first-class performance by their keeper and a rock-solid defence.
Inevitably, the Garstang pressure created penalty corners, and in the aftermath of one, Lindsay Norton intercepted a clearance and fed a superb pass to Fran Summers, who carried the ball into the D and struck home an unreachable lofted shot.
An Ulverston player took a nasty knock and gallantly played on, as they were also short of players.
Several further shots by Garstang went just wide, and the Ulverston keeper made some good pad saves.
Garstang also just failed to convert several times because of their opponent’s keeper’s skill, and they had to content themselves with a 1-0 half-time lead.
In the second period, Ulverston carried the game to Garstang for a brief period with, in particular, a tall rangy forward showing a potentially potent threat.
However, the Garstang defence of Nicky Oddie, Midge Bury, Donna Richardson and skipper Norton were in good form, and most attacks were intercepted before they even reached the D.
Garstang regrouped and reasserted their dominance, holding the ball and making wave after wave of attacks, with the Ulverston keeper making three excellent, last-gasp saves from strong shots just inside her right post.
For Garstang, Lily Helme in open play, and at penalty corners, just failed to reach three diving deflections that would have outflanked the keeper.
One day soon, the speedy youngster is going to collect a bucket full of goals.
Up front, Fran Summers’ powerful runs were a constant threat, and her shots and crosses just missed conversion.
In midfield, Jude Chapman, Josie Rice, Lyndsey Hayes and Wendy Haworth held the line and kept the ball in the Ulverston half.
Seventeen minutes into the half, a passing combination between Josie Rice and Summers ended with a near-post deflection into goal by Hayes.
In the last quarter, Garstang came close several times, and just failed to convert from well-drilled penalty corners.
In the last few minutes, Josie Rice was dancing with the ball in the Ulverston D, inviting a penalty corner from the slightest defensive error by Ulverston.
This was an excellent performance by a much fitter Garstang team, who dominated play with their pace, possession, passing and interception skills.
A strong Ulverston defence were simply worn down, with even their most powerful clearances being intercepted and skilfully trapped.
It was a great start for Garstang in the Northern League, but there are no doubt sterner tests to come this season.