Hockey: Marlborough ladies in tough and valiant fight at the foot of the league table
Marlborough 0 City of Bath 1
This was always going to be a tense game with both teams fighting for their place in the league, made more so with only three point winning opportunities left in the season and both sides having league leading teams yet to play.
Marlborough started the game with their blood up, piling the pressure on City of Bath’s defence and taking early opportunities to test the keeper. Catherine Manley, Rebecca Marnane and Rosie Curling opened their attack with business-like efficiency, wasting no time in getting amongst City’s defence and threatening their goal.
Within the opening five minutes of the game Marlborough had scored with Catherine picking up a pass across the keeper and slotting it home. The perfect start! However, the umpires denied Marlborough their first goal, citing obstruction against a City player in the lead-up play.
Undeterred Marlborough went back to the hunt, moving the ball around the pitch with confidence and panache, demonstrating the progress they have made during the second half of the season. The back line of Julie Fellows, Vanessa Pickford, Phillippa Brown and Beth Palfrey stepped up the pitch, allowing the midfield to become more attacking and putting yet more pressure on City’s defence as the ball was played equally well down both sides.
Another goal! This one came from a strike by Rachel Jackson outside the D and deflected into the goal. Sadly the deflection came off a City stick so Marlborough were left wanting again. Surely a genuine lead must be coming for Marlborough.
City of Bath meanwhile had been struggling for possession and their few forays into Marlborough’s defensive half had brought them little joy, leaving Marlborough’s keeper, Vicky Moxham, unthreatened.
Marlborough continued to dominate the play although the initial fervour had settled somewhat. Another well-hit strike just outside the D from Rachel Jackson hit City’s backboard again, unfortunately once again devoid of a Marlborough touch in the D - so disallowed.
Despite a few short corners being won, Marlborough were unable to capitalise allowing City of Bath to settle into the game and build their own confidence, gaining a foothold in the match despite a few of their players gaining warnings for their physicality when tackling.
Some good defensive work from the back line, now including Sarah Kendall, and supportive tracking back from the forward line meant City’s increasing attacks were mopped up without incident and they were unable to score from their only short corner in the first half.
At the half time whistle Marlborough had had three resounding knocks on City’s back board, but the score remained 0-0.
An intense half time talk preceded Marlborough’s return to the pitch. Marlborough attacked from the whistle with a series of passes leading to Rebecca Marnane driving the ball down the pitch, setting the pace for the following ten minutes of play.
Despite Marlborough’s best efforts, they were unable to score from a succession of short corners won by the skill and determination of the attacking players, both forwards and midfield (and even the defence in some cases!). Rachel Jackson worked the ball tirelessly into the D during this spell, ensuring a shot or short corner from the majority of her efforts.
However, Marlborough could not maintain this level of intensive attack indefinitely and in the middle of the second half City of Bath enjoyed a period of improved possession and began to increase the pressure on Marlborough’s defence.
Like Marlborough, they had no joy from a handful of short corners and Marlborough defenders closed down any attempts on goal quickly. City continued working the ball well through the midfield and the experience they had within their team began to show. The fateful passage of play came down City’s right, a cross from the right of the D and a deflection from the P spot lead to a goal for City. This one stood.
Galvanising themselves, Marlborough returned to the attack and despite peppering City’s defence with attacks from all areas of their defensive 25, Marlborough were not able to find a way past the keeper and into the goal.
The skill, effort and determination shown by the Marlborough players was herculean and City defended with 11 players in their defensive third for the remainder of the game, putting a wall of red in front of the goal.
The final whistle went. Against the run of play City of Bath had won 1-0.
Despite the score line there are a number of positives for Marlborough to take away from this game. They played with fluency and confidence on the ball, showing good unity in the press and a real hunger for goals - which will undoubtedly come in time.
The midfield and forwards rotated seamlessly and covered each other well with improving communication between and within the lines. They are certainly a team on the up as their run of recent points has proven and with a number of new players to bed into the team the future is looking exciting.
With next week’s fixture away against top of the league Newent, Marlborough will be looking to build on their form and see if they can pull off a surprise, but deserved result next week.
Marlborough News Online player of the match was awarded to the whole team for their valiant and unrelenting effort .