Natalie Hannah, Sutton Canada Life's 17-year-old striker, scored four times as Midlands overran North 6-1 on the second day of the Under-21 Territorial Championship at the Aurora Sports Club, Rotherham, yesterday.
As the high scoring of the first day's play continued, Midlands and the defending champions, East, the only two Territories to have won this championship in its 10-year history, remained dominant. Their encounter this afternoon is certain to decide the destiny of this year's title.
Incredibly, play started on time as the Aurora groundstaff created a green oasis in the midst of arctic, snow-clad Rotherham. East were the first to show their paces with a classy 5-0 win against the North, Canterbury's Melanie Clewlow collecting a hat-trick and Purdey Miller scoring twice.
East, in their second game, met a resolute West and had to be satisfied with a 2-0 win. Goals from Gail Mitchell followed good work down the right wing by Kirsten Bowden and a penalty corner strike from Clewlow.
Midlands' progress had been the more spectacular with the fast-moving Sarah Blanks, Hannah and Louisa Turney, who scored three times against the South, posing all the problems - ably supported by the all-action performance from the captain, Lucy Newcombe.
Newcombe and Jennie Bimson completed the scoring in the 5-1 rout of South, for whom Charlotte Manchester claimed a consolation.
In the last game of the day the performance of Hannah must have warmed the heart of the Great Britain coach, Sue Slocombe, in the appreciative crowd. With Hannah and Blanks taking intelligent advantage of the experimental no-offside rule, it was nearly one-way traffic and Midlands never looked back, following Hannah's first-minute goal.
The only disappointment for Midlands was the loss of Newcombe in the second half with a facial injury, but she is expected to be fit for today's Midlands v East decider.