Marlborough's fourth goal - Anil Sud's shot beats four defenders [Click on image to enalrge it]Marlborough 4 Bristol University B 0
For their home fixture (February 4) against Bristol University B - who are in third place in the league - Marlborough put in one of their best first half performances of the season to take a 3-0 lead and ensure the game was all but won by the break.
Marlborough started the game brightly, transferring the ball well across the pitch and finding space for forward runners to receive the ball in dangerous positions. But for a while they could turn these attacks into goals.
Bristol did look a threat on the counter attack with their skilful forward players, but excellent defensive work rate from all of the Marlborough team meant pressure was always applied to the ball carrier and therefore they struggled to distribute the ball forward.
Marlborough took the lead after about 15 minutes when their pressure on the Bristol circle finally led to confusion in the defenders' ranks and provided space for John Berry to rifle the ball across the keeper on his reverse.
Marlborough players sensed there was an opportunity and boy did they take it. They continued to press the Bristol midfield who turned the ball over just inside their half when Anil Sud cleverly read the play to intercept the pass.
He moved the ball square to the advancing Matt Way who was fouled whilst carrying the ball forward. He took the free hit quickly and played the ball into the circle at pace, Rich Fynn had read his intention perfectly and deflected the ball from in front of the keeper into the roof of the net.
At this point Bristol began to look rattled and put in a few clumsy tackles to earn themselves back-to-back green cards. Marlborough managed this period well - putting an extra body into the midfield and controlling the play.
To their credit, Bristol dug in and defended their circle well, but the pressure finally told when Rhys Davies forced a save from the Bristol keeper - but he could only clear the ball as far as Rich Fynn, who composed himself and played the ball into the bottom corner of the goal.
Half time arrived and Marlborough knew the game would be decided in the first 10 minutes of the second half. If they could avoid giving Bristol hope then the game was theirs.
Predictably, Bristol came out in the second half with a renewed intensity. They pushed their right half further up the pitch which caused Marlborough trouble before they adapted their press to counter the move. Bristol had much more possession in the second half and began to threaten the Marlborough circle.
A tense moment in front of Marlborough's goal A Bristol University shot goes wide of Marlborough's goal
It was through some excellent unit defence that Marlborough managed to keep Bristol at bay, with every player taking their defensive responsibility seriously and looking to counter at pace when the chance arrived.
Marlborough finally put the result beyond doubt following a spell of pressure on the Bristol circle. Once again Marlborough were awarded a free hit inside the 25 with Will Radnedge over the ball. He listened to the call from behind from Matt Way and cleverly lead away from the ball to draw the first defender.
This movement gave Matt Way the space to drive into the circle without any defensive pressure, his first effort on goal was saved by the Bristol keeper, but the rebound fell to captain Anil Sud. He steadied himself, picked his spot and played the ball underneath the keeper's left glove.
Marlborough News Online Man of the Match was drawn between central defensive pairing of Rich Holman and Matt Way - with Rich Holman winning it on the re-vote.
Firebrands 2 Marlborough 4
Marlborough travelled to Bristol to play a Firebrands team who all but ended Marlborough promotion hopes last year by beating them at a similar stage in the season.
Marlborough started this game brightly with quick ball movement around the back creating space for forward runners. The Firebrands circle was threatened on numerous occasions, but Marlborough were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal, missing numerous half chances in the opening ten minutes.
In the end it was Firebrands who took the lead, following a turnover on the half way line, one direct pass allowed the Brands forward to enter the circle and put the ball into the bottom corner as Brian Marnane attempted to narrow the angle.
Marlborough continued to dominate the first half, playing some great hockey but just couldn't find the finishing touches.
At half-time, Marlborough talked about playing with confidence, knowing that if they played another 35 minutes of hockey at the same level as the first half they would continue to create chances.
Marlborough got themselves level when a good attack down the left hand side found Rich Fynn in the circle, he played the ball to Rhys Davies on the baseline who's initial shot was smothered by the onrushing keeper, but Charlie Hawley was on hand to put the rebound into the corner of the goal.
Marlborough continued to press high up the pitch and got their reward when this pressure caused a turnover. John Berry pounced onto the loose ball, drove hard on an angle before firing the ball into the circle for Will Hughes. He managed to deflect the ball across his body into the goal to give Marlborough a deserved lead.
Although Marlborough continued to dominate the game, Firebrands moved the ball well to their forward in the circle who attempted to beat Brian Marnane low to his right. Brian's reactions were top notch and he saved the side of the goal where Chris Jones was on hand to play the ball over the sideline and relieve the danger.
Unbelievably and much to the surprise of everyone on the pitch, the umpire blew his whistle and signalled for a stroke. The decision was explained as being for a foul by John Berry, who had sprinted nearly the full length of the pitch to apply pressure before the initial save was made.
The Marlborough players felt extremely hard done by - the more so when the Firebrands forward put the flick agonisingly just out of Brian reach to bring the score level.
Marlborough quickly regrouped and used the frustration to up the intensity in their play. The ball began to work well through the midfield, with the trio of Anil Sud, John Berry and Mark Kinder all carrying the ball strongly into attacking areas.
It was from one of the drives by Anil Sud that Marlborough won a penalty corner. They elected to play the ball short to Rich Holman who fired it towards the backpost where Will Hughes was once again on hand to deflect the ball deftly into the corner of the goal. One from the training ground!
The fourth goal came for the visitors when a ball was played with pinpoint accuracy across to John Berry who showed his quality to sweep the ball into the goal - despite great physical pressure from the Firebrands defenders.
Marlborough managed to see the game out with minimal worry thanks to some excellent game management form the front five. The team were obviously delighted to pick up the three points.
There was even better news to come: Bath Buccs had dropped further points extending Marlborough's lead at the top. A win next weekend at home to Bristol University would be a huge step towards achieving promotion by winning the league.
Marlborough News Online Man of the Match was awarded to Will Hughes for his two goals and all round pressing intensity.
NOTE: The home fixture on January 21 against Sidmouth & Ottery was postponed due to a frozen pitch.