Railway Union moved into the frame for a EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I title showdown with Dundee Wanderers following back-to-back wins in Porto on Saturday.
They secured a place in the promotion pool by beating hosts Grupo Desportivo do Viso 4-1 in the lunchtime game. Despite having much of the early pressure, with three shots in the first five minutes, it was the hosts Viso who were first to score from their first and only corner of the match.
Railway made their dominance count in the second quarter when Emma Smyth picked up an inch perfect pass from Isobel Joyce to score the equaliser. Orla Fox put Railway ahead soon afterwards, scoring from a corner, which she had won after chasing down a lost cause ball.
Railway goalkeeper Carolyn Crampton was called on to make a crucial save before Railway went on to win four corners in a row, but failed to score, the last effort going narrowly over the bar.
Smyth did make that pressure count when she won a turnover and weaved her way past a few players to score her second and Railway’s third goal, 3-1 at half-time.
The third quarter was an even affair marked by Kate Dillon’s classy goal where she ran from half way past a number of players, took it round the keeper to score from a tight angle.
Railway changed keepers for the final quarter, Riona Norton taking to the court for her European debut. She was rarely called upon as Railway dominated the final quarter but were unable to add to their goal tally.
It meant they finished second in the group but carried two points through to the next phase courtesy of their 2-2 draw with Georgian team Ukimerioni Kutaisi. That left their title hopes in their own hands with two wins certain of earning them first place and they completed the first half of that equation with a 3-1 success against Swansea on Saturday evening.
The game was played at a much higher tempo than their previous pool A games and Railway rose to the challenge, producing their best game of the tournament so far, with Fox the stand out player.
Swansea were first to apply pressure, with Crampton somehow keeping the ball from crossing the line with a double save. Fox made some penetrating runs but it was Railway’s top goal scorer Dillon who edged Railway in front following a well-executed pass from Isobel Joyce.
Railway went further ahead in the second quarter, Smyth displaying her skills and winning a corner from a Swansea mis-timed tackle. The initial flick from Jenny Long was saved but injector Holly Jenkinson pounced on the rebound to put Railway 2-0 up at half time.
Swansea started the second half with an aggressive press, winning a corner but failing to score. Railway opened up a three goal margin when Emma Smyth’s quick shot was saved but Dillon scooped up the rebound. Swansea reduced the deficit before the end of the quarter scoring from a penalty corner switch.
No further goals were scored in the final quarter despite Railway winning two corners. With less than 2 minutes on the clock, captain Jenkinson was upended and left the court with a ‘dead leg’.
It was a convincing display by Railway, who take on Pool leaders Dundee Wanderers on Sunday at 1pm, knowing that a win would make them overall tournament winners and gain them promotion to the Trophy competition.
Dundee will be tough opponents as they beat Georgian side Kutaisi 8-2, running up four goals in the last quarter, having been 1-2 down earlier in the game. Dundee lead the pool on 10 points with Railway second on 7.
Pool A: Railway Union 4 (E Smyth 2, K Dillon, O Fox) Grupo Desportivo do Viso 1 (J Santos)
Pool D: Railway 3 (Kate Dillon x2, Holly Jenkinson) Swansea 1 (Georgina Pitts).
Promotion pool standings: Dundee 10 pts (+8), Railway 7 pts (+2), Swansea 2 pts (-4), Kutaisi 2 pts (-6)
Sunday fixture: Railway Union v Dundee Wanderers, 1pm (Live stream: https://www.eurohockeytv.org/en-int/playerpage/113492)