Fearless Falcons fly flag for Blackheath at Kent Cup
Blackheath win three, draw two and lose two to finish fourth out of eight in Pool A - but just one goal away from second and a semi-final berth
Blackheath Falcons secured a highly creditable fourth place out of the eight teams in Pool A of the Kent Cup at Tonbridge on Sunday.
It represents another a high watermark for the team - a majority of whom played together in the same tournament two years ago when they finished without a win. This time round they came within a goal of claiming second place in the pool and a semi-final berth.
The tournament began with a 2-0 defeat against Ashford. Amelia Couper and Orla Wyatt starred in defence and the ever-improving Grace Vyas in goal kept the score respectable with an impressive series of saves and rightful claimed player of the match.
Next up was Canterbury. The match finished 1-1 with Analivia Elkins finishing with aplomb after Nina Bowles found her in space. Rebecca Anderson had played well in midfield. At that stage there was little evidence of what was to come as the Falcons stepped a gear.
Brombecks were brushed aside 3-0. A great move by Ria Bennett-Lee was finished brilliantly by Isla Thomas. Nina Bowles, on as a substitute, added the second with a shot from distance, before Analivia Elkins added a third at the far post.
Next up was Holcombe, who took a surprise lead, before the Ria-Isla combination restored parity. Then more excellent work from Ria Bennett-Lee was superbly finished by Nina Bowles to secure a well deserved 2-1 win.
A trio of back-to-back wins was completed with Ria Bennett-Lee scoring at the death to complete a comeback win over Gillingham. The Falcons had taken the lead through Nina Bowles, but 30 seconds of madness saw Gillingham score twice, before a neat finish from Nina Bowles levelled.
At that stage Sevenoaks had already won the pool with five wins out of five and second place had become a three-way battle between Ashford, Tunbridge Wells and Blackheath Falcons, but with the national champions Sevenoaks in their last game the only real chance of a semi-final berth would be if the Falcons could overcome Tunbridge Wells A-string - a side they have failed to beat this season.
Tunbridge Wells had won four and lost one - their only defeat against Sevenoaks - in their opening five matches. With one eye on what was to come, coach Steve Bowles switched formations and played three at the back - Amelia Couper, Evie Costello and Orla Wyatt. It so nearly paid off. The performance was by far the side's best of the season. The trio of defenders stood firm with tackle after tackle and linked up brilliantly with the midfield. And any of them could rightly have claimed player of the match - they were simply outstanding.
Grace Vyas also made a couple of notable saves.
Tunbridge Wells managed to scramble in a goal and then Ria Bennett-Lee's cross-cum-shot crept in to level the scores. The match then could have gone either way as both sides produced an excellent game of hockey. But the victory the Falcons sought failed to materialise. And with Ashford and Tunbridge Wells playing out a goalless draw in their final match - a win would have taken the Falcons up to second and a shot at reaching the South East England finals - a huge achievement for the side that two years ago had ended the same tournament winless.
Even in defeat in their final game against eventual winners Sevenoaks, the team could hold their heads high. Sevenoaks won all their matches and their victory over the Falcons was their narrowest of the day - and this after all is a side that is not only the reigning national champions but littered with players that have international experience and will no doubt one day don the national shirt.
If progress likes this continues the future for Blackheath is very bright indeed.