Harrogate Hockey Club Ladies 1st XI captain Lucy Wood 'utterly thrilled' with first half of season

Harrogate Hockey Club Ladies 1st XI captain Lucy Wood says she is “utterly thrilled” by her team’s sensational start to 2021/22 – even though promotion was very much the aim at the start of the season.

Thursday, 30th December 2021, 5:44 pm
Harrogate Hockey Club Ladies 1st XI captain Lucy Wood in action earlier this season. Pictures: Gerard Binks

The free-scoring Ainsty Road outfit headed into their winter break seven points clear at the top of the Yorkshire & North East Premier League table.

Having won 11 of their 12 fixtures to date and lost just once, they are very much on track to realise their ambition of escaping the division this term, and in some style

“I’m utterly thrilled to be in the position we’re in,” Wood told the Harrogate Advertiser. “I really couldn’t have asked for a better start.

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Holly Oldham has been in prolific form in front of goal.

“I was quietly confident at the start of the season as it’s one of, if not the best, Harrogate squads I’ve ever played in during my time at the club.

“We had been promoted in 2019 but due to the restructuring of the leagues we’ve ended up essentially in the same division, so I knew we’d have a very good chance.

Promotion was definitely our aim given the strength in the squad. We’ve held our own amongst these teams for a while now and we know we’ve levelled up enough to take on some stronger opponents.

“What I didn’t expect was the conviction with which we’ve won our matches. Usually we’re a win-by-one-goal-side, whereas this year it’s been three or four-goal victories on a regular basis, sometimes even bigger margins.”

Harrogate’s success this term has been built on solid foundations with their miserly defence conceding just 12 times in 12 matches, though it is their firepower at the opposite end of the field which has really set them apart.

They have already scored 62 goals, thanks in part to the contribution of the prolific Holly Oldham, who has netted no fewer than 27 strikes since signing for the club this year.

“The addition of Holly to the squad has been fantastic,” skipper Wood added.

“Not only is she a goal-machine and dynamo on the pitch, but she’s a wonderful character and brings so much more than just her skills to the squad.

“As a player it’s brilliant to play with a forward who whenever she is on the ball in the ‘D’, you know she’s going to either score a goal or win a short-corner. Even in the most competitive games against some really strong keepers, she’s calm in front of goal, so you never really doubt her.”

Off the field, 1st XI head coach Lewis Butcher and team manager Mandy Lee have also played their part, organising and preparing ‘Gate’s players and providing the structure for their tilt at the title.

“Lewis is a brilliant coach,” Wood continued.

“He has an incredible wealth of experience and a natural eye to spot areas which need improvement both in the long-term and in each moment of the game as it’s playing out.

“He’s worked with the squad individually as well as tactically on how we play together – be that our defensive press or short-corners.

“It says a lot that the only game we’ve lost this season was when he wasn’t on the sideline and neither was our manager, Mandy Lee, who is another integral member of our team.”

Harrogate won their first 10 matches of the campaign before eventually succumbing to a narrow 3-2 loss on the road at Whitley Bay in early December.

But, they didn’t let that set-back knock them of course and bounced back immediately, comprehensively beating Halifax in their final outing of 2021.

“Personally I’d say this was the most important game of the season so far,” Wood said of ‘Gate’s recent 4-1 success.

“As I said to the girls after our loss at Whitley Bay, it’s how we respond to the result that’s important. We were straight back to winning ways and ironed out the weaknesses from the week before.

“We’re very good as a squad at analysing our game, what worked well and what needs to improve and then making tweaks during training.

“I have every confidence we’ll start the second half of the season as we mean to go on at home to Morpeth on January 15.”