WITNEY Ladies 1s hope they can spring a few surprises when they take on an array of international talent in their first season in England’s second tier.

The Lambs begin their Vitality Women’s Hockey League Division One South campaign at Isca & Exeter University this Saturday.

The Devon side will provide a taste of things to come for Witney, with England internationals Martha Taylor and Ella Burnley in their squad.

But head coach Chris Boyle is confident his charges can ruffle a few feathers with their ‘intense’ style of hockey that has brought them a remarkable four promotions in six seasons.

“We press and press and press,” he said.

“Why have it in our half when we can win it in theirs?

“The higher you win it up the pitch, the further you’ve got to go to score.

“That sounds really basic, but that’s the philosophy, to try to pressure teams to turn the ball over in their half and then counter with very, very good forwards.

“The first game of the season away to Isca, who have got an array of senior and junior internationals, is going to be exciting stuff.

“Some of the teams we’re playing will have players who have played for their country and that will be exciting for our players to play against.”

Taylor became the first England player born in 2002 when she made her national team debut against eventual World Cup runners-up Argentina in February, while Burnley helped the country win a bronze medal at the Junior World Cup in South Africa two months later.

Witney face another high-profile opponent when they visit Canterbury four games into the season.

Olympic gold-medallist Susannah Townsend, who also won bronze in Tokyo last year before retiring from the international stage, is part of the Kent side’s set-up.

Boyle stressed that teamwork is key for Witney, but earmarked defender Ellie Norton and forward Abi Flory as two players to watch.

“Ellie Norton holds that middle of the pitch, she’s strong in the tackle, she’s got great distribution,” the head coach said.

“Abi will cause teams problems because she frightens them.

“When she runs with the ball she frightens players. She’ll frighten anybody with the ball.”

The head coach is equally keen to see more people taking in the action at Wood Green School.

Witney’s first home game of the season is against Wimbledon 2s on Saturday, October 1, with push-back at 12.30pm.

He said: “The crowds have been getting bigger at Wood Green.

“We’ve got coffee and tea on site from Humble Bumble Cafe and it’s a good place.

“There were 69 Under 10s at training the other night – that’s a huge number.

“A lot of the first-team train the kids, so they get to see people that they can aspire to be.”