PENDLE Forest Firsts remain on top of the Vitality Women’s Conference North hockey table despite coming away from Durham University Seconds empty handed, writes Jan Cormack.

A goal in the opening quarter by a young Durham side proved to be the difference as Forest slipped to just their second defeat of the season.

Durham constantly stretched the Forest defence, early on. With no chance to settle, the visitors were a player down when Jan Cormack was green carded for dissent after being on the end of a deliberate foul which had been missed by the umpire.

That early pressure finally paid off when a cross in from the right found a tightly marked Durham player who managed to squeeze the ball home.

The physicality continued, and a tussle in front of goal left Deb Bythell, with two bruises to the forehead, and the Durham player, yellow carded with Bythell, receiving a green card also for a defensive retaliation.

Forest were struggling to get out of their own half so a tactical aerial ball from Freya, Bythell, in midfield, was sent but was just out of reach for Thea Cormack to connect with and was cleared by the goalkeeper.

After hanging on until half time, midfielders, Ali Gill, Thea Cormack, Liv and Freya Bythell were all working hard at thwarting the Durham attack - drawing in the fouls and moving Forest up the pitch.

But the Forest forwards, Hayley Bains, Steph Bedford, Cathy Killgallon, and Hannah Metcalf were getting very little feed because Durham were holding the lines firm and were quick on the turn with that constant supply of fresh legs from the sideline.

The intimidating tackles by the Durham side had continued but it was after this barrage that Liv Bythell was yellow carded for a lunge tackle and given a harsh 10 minutes on the side line.

Great marking and passing on players in defence by Liv Purtil, Mawgan Naylor and Sally Evans helped run down the time until Forest were back up to full strength with goalkeeper Freya Bennett also riding the storm - having put in important saves throughout the match and keeping the score to a respectable one nil.

* Pendle Forest Seconds played their first home game in a month at Pendle Vale against a youthful Fylde team.

It was Fylde who were the stronger team in the first 10 minutes and they had the best of attacking play.

As always, Forest’s keeper, Kat Pool, was in fine form and thanks to her athletic movement she kept Fylde scoreless.

Forest soon settled with the steadying control from the experienced Julie Shaw in the centre of midfield giving Forest’s mid-section confidence.

Forest won several penalty corners but could not convert. Dee McInnes came close to scoring after a rare run forward - her reverse stick effort from the edge of the D ran just wide of the left post.

Somewhat against the run of play Fylde pressed forward and skinned the Forest defence for pace. Pool made three sensational blocks on the floor but the Fylde strike cannily lifted her shot over Poole to give Fylde the lead just before the half time.

Forest went in search of an equaliser early in the second half but despite more penalty corners they could not find the killer pass to get the goal they deserved.

Fylde then pinched another goal to put them 2-0 up and with 10 minutes to go Forest had to throw caution to the wind to try and get goals back.

Manager Denise Tuck took off the sweeper and brought Hutchinson back on up front. The system worked well with impressive runs from Naomi Niamh instrumental in getting Forest in the game.

Her cross from the right found Maxwell on the left who sent a straight ball to Dunleavy on the spot, who fired goalwards where the poacher of all poachers, Wignall, ensured the ball crossed the line to get Forest right back in the mix.

Fylde were clearly rocked as Forest found a renewed energy and really pressed them in their third. Hird and Niamh were running rings around Fylde and putting fine crosses into the D but despite fine work by the strikers Forest could not find an equaliser due to some last-ditch defending.