Pendle Forest sealed their fifth-successive league championship title with victory at University of Leeds on Saturday.
The fixture saw all to play for, with Leeds also vying for a position in the top four to keep them in with a chance of promotion alongside Forest, while a win for Forest meant they would be North Hockey Women’s League Premier Division champions with a game to spare.
As the game began, early tension caused mistakes to be made by both teams, with play swinging backwards and forwards, with action in both goalmouths.
Brought into early action, keeper Laura Kendal was required to palm a lofted shot away at the left post, also making diving saves protecting her goal.
At Forest’s attacking end, they were also testing out the keeper, with Charlotte Hartley and Lisa Crewe winning penalty corners, but it was in open play where the first goal came.
Thea Cormack dribbled the ball around two players out of defence and sent a long ball down the sideline to Hartley, who cut inside, took the ball around the keeper, and, in a trademark move, slotted it away with ease for a 1-0 lead, midway through the first half.
The score remained 1-0 at half-time, and there was a quiet start to the second half.
But then Leeds turned it up a gear, and coming down the middle and using the left, testing the defence, but tight marking by Olivia Purtill and Dani Hornby thwarted many opportunities.
And they were backed up by a solid defensive effort.
Player of the match Kendal again athletically closed down any threat near goal.
The outlets down the wings were working well for Forest, and Crewe was sending passes through to the attackers.
Finding Freya Bythell on top of the D, she then played a simple pass to Hartley to her left, who drew out the keeper and, completing the triangle, forwarded the ball to Hayley Baines in front of goal, who delivered Forest their second goal.
Leeds needed to fight back, and although they had opportunities, the Forest defence were standing strong.
Sam Parker’s tackle on the penalty spot and clearance was done with crucial timing, and a solid block by Hornby then allowed Olivia Bythell to clear, keeping the the scoreline at 2-0.
Forest deserved their 2-0 lead, which also handed them the prestigious title of Women’s North Hockey Premier Division champions, and their third-consecutive promotion – in which time they have only lost one league game.
They won Division 2 North West three years on the spin, winning the promotion play-offs at the third attempt, before winning Division 1 last year, completing the season unbeaten.
Forest also boast six of the top eight goalscorers in the Premier Division.
With one game to play, Hartley is top of the list with 24, two clear of Crewe.
Freya Bythell is fourth with 12, with Steph Bedford sixth on 10, and Hayley Baines and Thea Cormack follow with seven.
Forest round off another superb season tomorrow when they travel to Alderley Edge Ladies firsts, kick-off 3 p.m.
Next season, for the first time in their history, Forest will play in the second tier of English hockey, in the Investec Women’s Hockey League Conference North.