Jubilant captain Nic Fletcher could not disguise her delight as North Notts Ladies launched the new hockey season with an eyecatching victory.
North Notts thumped visitors Shrewsbury 4-1 in the First Division of the Midland Women’s League to mark a successful first match in charge for new coach Paul Hamnett. And Fletcher beamed: “It’s the first time in five years that we have won our opening fixture of the season. It’s a great start for us. We were well drilled and ready to win.
“We are now reflecting on the performance and focusing on the first away game this weekend against Olton and West Warwick.”
Adding merit to the victory was the fact that Shrewsbury finished two places higher than North Notts in third spot last term and weren’t far off gaining promotion to the league’s top flight. The success was a triumph for the positive planning and teamwork fostered by Hamnett, who has taken charge of tactics for the new campaign
The game started with high energy from both sides, who were keen to shake out the new-season nerves. North Notts settled first and after a defensive error by Shrewsbury in the sixth minute, a short corner play led to Amy Butler shooting. The effort was deflected by the goalkeeper, but came straight back at her and she responded with a fast shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
The possession flowed back and forth, but just six minutes later, an opportunity for Amy Butler was deflected directly to teammate Holly Whittaker, who gratefully made it 2-0.
Shrewsbury fought back, using set-plays and increasing their penetration. But robust defending and interceptions restricted their chances and even when North Notts were down to ten players for the last two minutes of the half because of a green card awarded for deliberately slowing play down, the visitors failed to capitalise.
The second half began with a third North Notts goal as Butler drove a clinical shot to the keeper’s right, which forced Shrewsbury to change their tactics. Reacting with more energy and possession, they won numerous short corners, only for goalkeeper Rachel Hunter to direct her backline well. North Notts not only soaked up all the pressure but also broke to bag a fourth goal. scored by Whittaker.
Shrewsbury did pull one back four minutes from time, but the hosts were worthy winners, with Nic Fay, who was making her comeback after five years absence. named as players’ player-of-the-match, with a special mention also going to new defender Alex Roe (15).