Hockey: very mixed day for Marlborough's men - firsts lose, seconds lose away 13-nil, thirds manage 'an ugly win'
Marlborough 3 Bristol University A 5
With player availability the worst it has been all season, Marlborough were forced into several changes for the home fixture against Bristol University's A team (December 2).
Bristol dominated the early stages, forcing Marlborough into uncharacteristic mistakes and seemingly unable to connect on simple five metre passes. Just as Marlborough started to bring things together and claim something of a foothold in the game, they fell behind to a rebound goal from a short corner.
Bristol soon extended their lead when poor marking in the Marlborough defence allowed them to play a raking ball to the edge of the Marlborough circle - a quick exchange of passes and Bristol left goalie Rich Newton no chance.
This second goal didn't deter Marlborough who continued to play themselves into the game, seeing several balls flash across the face of goal with only the slightest of touches needed.
Marlborough eventually got themselves on the score sheet ten minutes before half-time. Mark Ramage was able to play the ball forward to centre back partner Rich Holman who had elevated himself on the left side of the pitch. He calmly got his head up and fired the ball into the path of Captain Anil Sud, who deftly turned the ball past the Bristol keeper and into the goal.
Marlborough could feel the momentum shift and drew themselves level when Will Hughes found space in the circle to finish off a good passing move with a clever deflection.
The turnaround was complete when shortly before half-time, James Richardson received the ball with his back to goal, cleverly rolled onto his strong side and held off a rather agricultural attempted tackle before firing the ball into the far corner.
The second half continued as the first half had finished, with Marlborough applying pressure higher up the pitch and enjoying longer spells of possession. Once again John Bromley was able to push himself forward up the right-hand side, creating problems for the Bristol midfield as they struggled to deal with the overload situation.
Marlborough could (and perhaps should) have extended their lead with several chances coming and going without the finishing touch applied. Unfortunately, they would live to rue these misses as the fifteen man squad of students from Bristol were able to play at an intensity that the eleven men of Marlborough just couldn't match.
The game was level when Marlborough were unable to fully clear Rich Newton's save and a Bristol forward bundled the ball over the line at the third attempt.
Bristol then took the lead following a slick counter-attacking move. They won the ball inside their own circle before managing to find a good outlet pass to their left. They drew the Marlborough defence across before finding an excellent square pass to a team-mate joining the attack at pace.
He picked the ball up in his stride before cutting back in-field past the covering defender and fired the ball into the bottom corner on his reverse, to the great surprise of his team-mates on the bench...
Marlborough knew they needed to press forward and changed to play three at the back in the hope of creating an opportunity. However, despite their best efforts, they were unable to do so and ultimately conceded from a short corner on the final whistle after committing players forward.
It was a disappointing result and now they will need to bounce back in their last 2 games before Christmas - away to Newent and Cardiff University, who are both towards the bottom of the table.
Marlborough.news Man of the Match was awarded to Matt Osborne for his tireless work up front, pressing extremely well and looking dangerous when in possession.
Ed Watson finds very little to report about the second team's away drubbing by Mendip:
With an unprecedented selection crisis, many thanks must go to the eleven players who did put their hand up to travel down to Somerset. With five players making their second team debut and five players under 18 there was plenty of effort, but Mendip were the strongest side we have played this season and also played an attractive brand of hockey.
Unsurprisingly, we lost very heavily. The score ended 13-0
Marlborough News Online Man of the Match was Luc Renwick - a harder debut for a goalie I struggle to imagine and he acquitted himself manfully - winning plaudits from both sides.
Alex Ford reports on the third team's narrow victory at home over Royal Wotton Bassett:
Marlborough were top and RWB were bottom so no problem - even after the seconds realising they were playing away in Somerset on a Christmas shopping day, had pinched every player under 25.
Captain Andy Shaw gave a stirring pre-match team-talk: “I want 85 per cent of the possession and let’s enjoy it”. What he should have added was "And let’s score some goals" - because that minor formality proved remarkably difficult.
Responding to the removal of its youth, the Thirds had re-introduced the old guard with more youth and an exciting new talent in the form of Dan Crossman on loan from the Seconds. His pace, control and general awareness was so disturbing that he was asked to throttle back a bit because no-one else could stay with him.
The defence were immaculate (Angus Harley and James Lane solid as ever) which was hardly surprising as the game was played almost exclusively in the Bassett 23 and most of that in their circle. Many chances came and went: not a problem because we were all over them and the pressure had to tell.
During the course of 24 Marlborough corners every variation was tried, most of them multiple times. Short corners are the opportunity to demonstrate practice and precision, regrettably there wasn’t any. Even when Marlborough did get it right the Bassett keeper kept everything out.
The forwards swarmed all over the opposition with a fluidity that we have not often seen this season. Gabriel Dellar came close, Alex Ford came closer. Phil Gill came very close and David Patterson and Andy Shaw provided numerous scoring passes.
And still with five minutes to go it remained 0-0.
At the last gasp a drive down the right and a cross from Oli Wing on the wing led to another goal mouth scramble and Alex Ford ,stealing the open goal from Dan Crossman, generously helped the ball over the line to the relief of the traumatised spectators.
To win a league you sometimes have to win ugly and they don’t come much uglier than this.
Marlborough.news Man of the Match: Phil Gill.