Helen Richardson-Walsh set to relish the challenge of the play-offs

Star returns to form after injury
Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
Helen RW

Helen Richardson-Walsh celebrates with Susie Gilbert after scoring the second goal of the game from a penalty corner as Reading beat Leicester 3-1 Picture: RSK Ghowry

First target achieved. Helen Richardson-Walsh scored a tap-in goal and laid on a third for Reading in a 3-1 win over Leicester to take their top four place in the Investec League play-offs at the Olympic Park on April 18-19.

Reading took the final spot on the last day of the season after Holcombe’s team of internationals could not break through in a goalless draw against unbeaten leaders Surbiton.

Richardson-Walsh has been slowly recovering from serious back injury and since her return last month, Reading have clawed their way up the table.

She said: “It’s fantastic for us to make the play-offs after what has been a difficult season for the team with players missing throughout. Finishing fourth, which is the highest we've been all season, shows the persistence from all involved and a belief that if it was mathematically possible, we would still make it. After our win we were waiting for the Holcombe result to come in on twitter, and fortunately for us it went our way.”

The London Olympian added: "The last year has been one of great uncertainty, so for me it has just been brilliant to be involved, but I'm really looking forward to playing in a big game once more, especially as it will be at Lee Valley. Surbiton are unbeaten this season so it will be a tough ask but we're all looking forward to the challenge.

"I've been back on the pitch, gradually building things up for two months now, and so far my back has coped with the demands. I'm still maintaining a high strength programme, with a view to upping my speed work over the coming weeks and, hopefully, my body will continue to adapt positively."

Leicester had gone ahead through a Liz George goal in the sixth minute, but Reading bounced back with goals from Susie Gilbert, then Richardson-Walsh and Sarah Jones.

University of Birmingham's play-off hopes were also dashed but they put four past Buckingham, who go into the relegation play-offs. Jo Turnbull, Faye Curran, Olivia Chilton and Anna Toman were the Birmingham scorers .

Bowdon Hightown have a lot to be thankful for their young star Holly Hunt, who scored both goals as they stayed in the top flight after a 2-2 draw against relegated Beeston.

Second-placed Canterbury came back from two goals down to beat third-placed Clifton 3-2. Jo Leigh and Claire Thomas scored for Clifton but Sarah Kerly, Grace Balsdon and then Jen Wilson scored the winner to set the teams up for the Olympic Park title finale.