HOCKEY: KHALSA booked their place in the finals weekend of the England Hockey Mixed Trophy competition as Kerry Luckett bagged a brace in a 4-2 victory over Banbury.
Sunday’s quarter-final clash against 2016 winners Banbury was going to be a tough test for Khalsa, but they rose to the challenge at St Nicholas Park to progress into the final four.
Both teams knew the importance of the match, with the winner securing a place at the Finals in June at the Lee Valley Olympic pitches and with nerves and excitement evident, it proved to be a frantic start.
Khalsa were first to get a break with a flurry of penalty corners, and after Dave Harris had ridden through three tackles, the ball fell to Scott Angliss to score, but the umpire disallowed the goal claiming Harris had kicked the ball.
This incident only spurred Khalsa on and with some skilful play from Stu Gooderham through the Banbury defence, he was deliberately fouled and won a penalty stroke, which Jasminder Khakh fired into the rigging from the spot.
The visitors continued to pile the pressure onto their opponents with Lucy Miszkowska, Joe Colantonio and Ella Bromley proving useful down the flanks.
But a quick turnover allowed Banbury to win a penalty corner from which a well hit shot beat Elliott Rider in the Khalsa goal.
Luckett and Harries had chances before the break but the scoreline remained 1-1 at the half-way stage.
Some inspirational words from Aaron Nagra and Guri Ghattaura at half time were all that was needed as Khalsa seemed a different side in the second half.
The visitors began creating plenty of chances and the pressure eventually told when Harris was toppled over inside the D and Khakh was able to fire a drag flick into the bottom corner.
Despite Banbury’s best efforts, the back five of Rider, Angliss, Ben Stephenson, Jordan Savage and Emma Nobes stood strong, and it was not long before a breakaway found Harris in space who selflessly played the ball to Luckett to bag her first of the game.
From there on in the game became scrappy, with green cards being awarded to both sides as Banbury threw everything at Khalsa.
A total of seven penalty corners were awarded to the visitors, but nothing was getting past Rider who made a spectacular glove save and a trio of blocks from close range.
Instead it was Khalsa who were to score again with Harris and Luckett finding themselves almost mimicking the previous goal as Harris rounded the keeper before firing the ball towards goal and Luckett got the important touch for her second with three minutes to go.
Patience and composure from Khalsa wound the clock down, before a brief lapse allowed Banbury to score a late consolation goal but the damage had already been done.
Khalsa now begin preparations for Finals weekend which takes place on June 3-4 at Lee Valley where they will face either Spencer, Stourport or Harleston Magpies.