Wimbledon reflect on missed opportunity as penalties prove their undoing at Jaffa Super 6s

Phil Ball was proud of his Wimbledon team-mates despite the team crashing out of the Jaffa Super 6s on penalties to Team Bath Buccaneers at the Copper Box Arena on Sunday.

The south-west Londoners sailed through the pool stage of the competition with some eye-catching attacking displays, including a 6-0 win over Bath earlier this month.

Ben Marsden’s team seemed favourites to win the indoor competition for the first time heading into finals day, but their Somerset opponents had other ideas, drawing 3-3 in normal time before netting the only goal in the penalty shootout.

Nevertheless, Ball was determined to focus on the positives after their semi-final defeat.

He said: “This has been a fantastic campaign for us. We made the finals.

“It’s a great achievement for this group of guys and for the club and it keeps people motivated.

“The result is a little bit sad, but we’ve got a lot to do outdoor and that’s where the focus goes now.”

NO WAY THROUGH: Team Bath Buccanneers crowd out Wimbledon’s Simon Mantell. Credit: Simon Parker

The match itself was a topsy-turvy encounter, with Wimbledon stringing together some fluid attacking moves early on without getting on the scoresheet.

The first half then became a tale of two converted penalty corners, with Simon Mantell’s effort quickly cancelled out by Andrew Eversden.

Clever finishes after the interval from John Jackson and Ben Mackey looked to put Bath on the way to victory, before Ball and Ed Horler ensured the match went to penalties.

Both keepers excelled, with Eversden finally converting to seal victory and spark wild celebrations from the travelling contingent.

Bath went on to face East Grinstead in the final, losing 4-3.

“They worked very hard in defence,” Mantell said of Bath’s approach.

“You really have to indoor, because if you beat one player then it basically creates a chance on goal, so you’ve got to be really active throughout the whole pitch.

“They definitely brought it to us in terms of their intensity and it meant they crowded the ball-carrier and sat back quite deep, made it quite condensed and it paid off for them.”

Wimbledon’s opening goalscorer also felt the team’s fast start was not sustained for the full 40 minutes.

“We probably should have continued that intensity throughout the whole game,” Mantell admitted.

“We feel we had the capabilities to win it in real time, rather than taking it to penalties.

“Goals can go against you even when you’ve got the ascendancy. That happened a little bit and then Bath got back into it and built in confidence.”

It was the first time the Copper Box had hosted the event after an extended run at the SSE Arena, Wembley. Mantell thought the set-up at the east London site had been a success.

“I think it’s brilliant,” he said. “It’s so great for the legacy of sport after the Olympics in 2012 that we’ve got a venue here.

“We play the outdoor hockey across the road at Lea Valley, another legacy venue.

“This is perfect for us. The crowd is excellent, the noise is great and it’s just an all-round great package.”

Wimbledon lie sixth in the outdoor Premier Division, which resumes this weekend after the winter break, but are the defending champions and have eight games left to haul themselves into the top four and the play-offs.

Ball added: “That will be the focus. We believe we’re good enough to be in there.

“If you ask the top seven or eight teams in that league, they would all realistically sit there at the start of the season and say ‘yep, we’re aiming for that top four’.”

Featured image shows Phil Ball celebrating scoring against Team Bath Buccanneers, courtesy of Simon Parker, with thanks

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