A late goal by Amy Butler secured North Notts Ladies victory to send them top of the First Division table in the Midland Women’s Hockey League.
In a gritty and temperamental match, North Notts faced a determined Matlock Baileans side, who sit halfway down the division.
And it looked to be heading for a draw until they decided to switch play zones, leading to a forced error by the visitors. A short corner play was fashioned by Holly Whittaker to Butler, who drove her shot into the bottom corner of the net for the winner.
The goal completed North Notts’s sixth win from seven matches so far this term and left them in first place on goal-difference from Edgbaston Ladies, whom they are due to play in their next home match on Saturday, November 26.
Delighted captain Nic Fletcher said: “Our absolute determination and passion to succeed are evident. But we must not rest on our laurels. We are now the target for other teams and we must raise our game to live up to that challenge.”
North Notts began the game more aggressively than in previous weeks, showing improved organisational play. But it wasn’t long before Matlock turned up the pressure and clearly had something to prove after their closely-fought contests in the early weeks of the campaign.
Both sides mounted attacks, and first blood was drawn by North Notts when a sweet strike by Lil Robinson, from a short corner, found its way into the net between goalkeeper and post.
The goal seemed to rattle Matlock, who raised their game, forcing the hosts into mistakes and breaking down their set-plays. The Derbyshire outfit continued to look strong on the break and when they intercepted a long ball upfield, their striker teased and dummied in-form goalkeeper Rachel Hunter, who saved the initial shot but was beaten by the second to bring the scores level.
As the match wore on, both sides became more and more frustrated as the umpires stopped the play repeatedly. Three green cards were also issued to North Notts, leaving them with just nine players on the pitch at one point.
However, all their hard work eventually paid off as Butler unveiled her winning goal in similar style to that of the previous scorer, Robinson.
Before the crunch match against Edgbaston, North Notts have two more important fixtures to negotiate. This Saturday, they travel to play Loughborough Students 2nd in a league match, and then the followng day, they are away to in-form Burton Ladies in the Second Round of the England Hockey Investec Women’s Trophy.
So far this term, Loughborough have won four of their seven games and sit fourth in the table, while Burton lie third in the league’s Feeder East Division after winning five and losing just one of their seven fixtures.