After a ten week winter layoff, Beeston Ladies 1st XI started the second half of the Premier Division season on Saturday at home against East Grinstead but were beaten by the odd goal in three during what was a closely fought game.
With Beeston finishing 5th at the Christmas break they will now play every team in the top six home and away to compete for the league title and a place in European competition.
It was the home side who started the better of the two teams with the Sussex outfit failing to touch the ball in the opening two minutes of the game.
Beeston’s well-crafted attacks and considered build up soon resulted in a goal. In the sixth minute Lucy Millington took a quick free hit which released Bea Bell to dribble past three East Grinstead defenders before calmly slotting home past the stranded Laura Myers in the away team goal.
The visitors played their way back into the game but it was still Beeston who had large periods of possession but the home side couldn’t create any meaningful chances.
It was in fact East Grinstead who came closest with Sophie Bray failing to convert from close range after a good save from Steph Tirrell in the Beeston goal.
Paige Gillot, playing her first Premier League game in 16 months after the 2020/2021 season being void and due to covid and injury, controlled the game well through midfield and linked well with Hannah Grieve in defence.
However, just before half time a lapse in Beeston concentration allowed the away sides international stars to score their first of the game. With over 450 international caps between them, Laura Unsworth found Sophie Bray in the circle who put the ball across the face of goal for Ellie Rayer to finish.
The second half saw more of the same with the two side trading periods of possession with few clear cut chances.
Immi O’Neill on her Premier League debut, Lauren Burrell and Lucy Millington all had half chances from difficult angles for the home side but couldn’t convert.
With 15 minutes to go, Beeston’s Bea Bell almost grabbed her second with a shot whistling past the post and with 7 to go Mads Newitt rounded the East Grinstead keeper but couldn’t apply the finish.
This latest near miss saw the previously lacklustre East Grinstead spring into life and after winning the ball in midfield, Ellie Rayer won a controversial penalty stroke with a driving run into the Beeston circle. It was Rayer finished calmly from the spot to set up a grandstand finish.
The away side’s professionalism late on meant they saw out the game as Beeston couldn’t get the equaliser they perhaps deserved and the win would see East Grinstead go top of the table due to results elsewhere in the league going their way.
Beeston Head Coach, James Sordillo, said after “We’ve had a tricky build up to the league restarting with our indoor season limiting outdoor training and a number of injuries, but the group have done well to come through that and get going again.
We’re frustrated today because we played well in parts but ultimately it wasn’t enough. We know where we need to improve and will take that into next week against Surbiton”
Beeston Ladies 1st’s travel to reigning champions Surbiton next weekend followed by a trip to Bristol to play Clifton. Their next home game is on Saturday February 26th at 2pm when they host the much fancied Hampstead and Westminster.
Entry to Nottingham Hockey Centre is free and all fans are welcome.
*Main image @AndySmith Bees goalscorer Bea Bell in action during the defeat against East Grinstead.