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Starlings and Gulls soar above the rest

By Alice Webb

Juniors weekend review - Emily C and Sophie E among the goals as Brighton's sides finish in style

Brighton and Hove's two teams ended a spectacularly successful Sussex Girls Development League season as they had played throughout the campaign, dominating, performing well and winning.

The Starlings - who finished as league champions - overwhelmed South Downs Skylarks 9-0. while the Gulls, who were runners up, beat Crowborough Blackbirds 7-0.

Proud coach Amy MacMillan reports: "The Starlings finished the season as they started with another big victory. After our first defeat of the season last week against the Gulls, BHHC's other team in the Girls Under-16 Sussex Development League, we were keen to end on a high. As last week, availability was poor and as such we were able to give two under-12s, Sophie W and Orla C, only their second Saturday match.

"In the soaring March heat and with no subs, every player gave 110 per cent as they have all season and listened and responded well to instructions they were given.

Within five minutes, we were one up after an astute run into the D and hard flat hit from Frankie K was deflected in by Izzy S. After a second was correctly disallowed off a PC for height, the next short corner was calmly hit in low by Emily C to make it 2-0. Soon after Izzy S moved well off the ball allowing Emily to drive into the D and place a hard push into the bottom corner.

"As the half went on, the few Skylarks attacks were dealt with calmly by our inexperienced defence. Meanwhile, we took total control in midfield, playing some beautiful team hockey. Another short corner led to Emily's hat-trick: after Frankie had slipped the ball left, Emily slapped it hard and flat.

"As coach Amy Mac started to think about how to change things around to level the paying field, Emily and then Olivia S quickly made it 6-0 before half time.

"Amy asked that Olivia, Emily and Maelona R switched from midfield to defence and pushed Evie P, Tia L and Tilly S into midfield for the second half. It took a while for the new midfield to gel, but gel they did and the hockey continued to be excellent. Amy was really impressed once again at how the girls responded to playing out of position. It wasn't long before Evie got a well deserved goal after Frankie played a lovely ball across to the far post from the right.

"The Skylarks had a handful of attacks, with GK Tess W making a couple of good saves, but most attacks were thwarted before a shot could be taken. Meanwhile we continued to play the ball around well and Frankie got two well deserved quick goals to bring the tally to nine. We played the last seven or so minutes with 10, as is the custom in this league if you're winning by more than five and have already moved players out of position. Thanks to Olivia for sacrificing those few minutes of her game.

"We end the season with 21 wins and just the one defeat, against our Gulls. We've conceded only eight goals all season and officially scored 82 - the actual number of goals scored is a lot more, but you can only record a victory of five goals difference in this league. So in only their second season in the league the Starlings take top spot and our Gulls follow closely behind in second, with no other clubs in sight.

"This is a fantastic achievement for all our U16 girls. I'm extremely proud of all the girls who have played in the Starlings this season. They have been a pleasure to coach and watch on a Saturday and I'm very much looking forward to watching them grow over the coming years. I would to extend a huge thank you to Jon Royce for coaching them during the week, to Clare for doing the huge amount of legwork needed each week to get a team together and to Wendy for everything she does with the juniors.

"I had the easiest job with the Starlings, whereby I turn up on a Saturday, run the team on the day and reap the rewards of the hard work of others! Please know I hugely appreciate that hard work from everyone involved."

Meanwhile, a hat-trick from Sophie E, two goals from Nia and a goal apiece from Leah and Olivia saw the Gulls have a comfortable win in the sunshine at Blatchington, reports Sue Everton.

"Last match as a team and wonderful to see friendships evolve across so many schools and age groups. The parents too have vowed to stay in touch. Great end to the season - many thanks to all involved, however special congratulations to the girls themselves who have come so far individually and collectively from the early days, three seasons ago, when they were regularly thrashed as U14s in the Surrey League! Long may their hockey journey continue."

Karen Edwards paid tribute to the two Brighton teams. "Well done Starlings and Gulls," she said. "Best results in the club by far and a tribute not only to the children themselves but to the managers and coaches plus the adult club members who helped with umpiring and the parents who have been hugely supportive every week."

Updated 09:50 - 3 Apr 2019 by Alice Webb

Where next?

Mission accomplished - BHHC secure top six place Men's weekend review - nervy final day ends with joy, relief and a spot in Division One for next season
Bara's goals can't save Brighton Women's weekend review - agonising relegation for 1s while 3s, 4s and 5s finish in style

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