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Hockey: Marlborough men dig deep to secure promotion - with five games to go

Marlborough 4   Mid Somerset   3

Marlborough went into the weekend knowing that a win - and other results going their way - would seal their promotion. That was exactly what they got!

Unfortunately for Marlborough they were missing several of their more influential players. This allowed an opportunity for Mark Ramage and the prolific John Metcalfe, who have continually impressed for the second team this year, to get their chance - and they didn't disappoint.

With the players available Marlborough made the brave decision to change from their normal line up into a defensive back three.

The decision paid off immediately with Marlborough completely dominating the early stages and finding space all over the pitch. They won a short corner following a lovely passing move utilising their ability to pivot the ball from one side to the other and find space for their forward runners.

Rich Fynn disguised his flick at goal, opening his wrists up at the last minute to slide the ball toward Charlie Hawley - he deflected the ball across the keeper and into the corner of the goal.

Marlborough extended their lead after John Bromley won the ball in midfield. He transferred the ball to mark Ramage who got his head up and slipped a good through ball into the path of Rich Fynn. He gathered the ball, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball into the net from a tight angle.

Half time arrived without too much fuss, Marlborough maintaining their domination in both possession and territory, especially when Mid Somerset were reduced to ten men following a couple of heavy stick tackles.

Marlborough extended their lead early in the second half when the ball was worked down the right hand channel.  Charlie Hawley carried the ball well and slipped it into Alex Renwick in the circle. Alex drove left before dragging the ball back and lifting it over their advancing keeper in one slick movement - another very composed finish from the talented young player.

At this point the match looked finished, but a quick goal for Mid Somerset created a shift in the momentum of the game. Marlborough seemed to have less energy in their press and gaps began to appear.  Fortunately the combination of veteran Chris Jones and youngster Ollie Davies defended well - snuffing out any further half chances.

Marlborough restored their three goal cushion when a period of pressure down the left hand side created space to attack into. Rhys Davies, playing in an unfamiliar midfield role, carried the ball well, drawing in defenders before rolling infield to release the ball square to Rich Fynn.

Rich, normally the one applying the finishing touches, carried the ball on an angle before playing it into the circle. Justin Metcalfe had read the play well, getting in front of his marker to deflect the ball over the keeper's foot and into the corner of the goal.

To their credit, Mid Somerset didn't give up and rallied once again. They were definitely helped when Marlborough went through one of their 'funny 5s' - which have been so few and far between this season.

With Marlborough looking tired and turning the ball over in dangerous areas, Mid Somerset managed to score two goals within minutes of each other. Fortunately Marlborough were able to weather that storm and hold on for a well deserved win.

The way in which Marlborough played for 65 minutes of the game was a real credit to the strength in depth at the club this season. The ability to win against the third placed team in our league despite being without five regulars, is exactly why they have gained promotion and are sitting at the top of the league with a handful of games to go.

Marlborough.News Man of the Match was awarded to the evergreen Chris Jones who had a great game winning the ball back numerous times and setting up counter attacks.

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Hockey: Marlborough ladies convincing win over old rivals moves them to third in league table

In a goal rich game Jess Pugh raced to a hat trick  (Library photo) In a goal rich game Jess Pugh raced to a hat trick (Library photo) Marlborough      6       City of Bath          1

After a three week gap since their last game, Marlborough Ladies saw this fixture as crunch time against old rivals City of Bath who were sitting right above them in the league table. 

Right from the whistle Marlborough managed to gain possession and pass the ball around freely. Twice Marlborough attacked down the right with got some early shots, but both times Bath's goalkeeper stood firm. From a 16 yard hit out, City of Bath broke the press and began their attack down the left and penetrating the D and Marlborough's keeper was forced to make the save.

The defence cleared the ball and Marlborough were on the attack again.  A one touch pass from Sophie Flynn into the middle of the pitch found Neve Beer who scored from the top of the D - lifting the ball into the top left hand corner.  

Just what was needed to calm the nerves. Keeping up the intensity Marlborough pressed again resulting in a short corner. The ball was slipped to Sophie Flynn - her shot was stopped on the line by the defender's foot. Jess Pugh stepped up for the flick and calmly slotted it past the keeper.

Bath gave away possession from the whistle and Marlborough were on the attack again. A sweeping cross-field pass from Rachel Cox to Neve Beer, with a quick ball to Anna Strover who one touch passed it to Jess Pugh who calmly took it round the keeper - Jess's second of the game. 

At 3-0 Marlborough sat back and Bath had a good period of possession favouring their right.  They had some dangerous passages of play and the defence was caught ball watching several times.

Goalkeeper Vicky Moxham was called upon a few times, but their shots rarely troubled her.

Another attack from Marlborough and another short corner. This time it was saved on the post, but a poor clearance gave the ball straight back to Marlborough. Torie Williams slipped it to the P spot where Rachel Cox was waiting to sweep it into the goal. As the half time whistle blew there were smiles all round.

City of Bath came out strongly and took Marlborough by surprise. Within the first few minutes they were awarded a short corner. A straight strike fired into the top left corner. That was not supposed to happen.

Bath continued to press and break, but were held off by a solid defence. Marlborough struggled to move the ball around as smoothly as in the first half, trying for glory balls rather than keeping it simple. Attack after attack seemed to fall down with the last ball, and Marlborough were giving the ball away far too much.

Marlborough needed another goal to calm the game. Step up Jess Pugh for her third of the game - another close range shot leaving their goalkeeper helpless.  

With ten minutes to go Sophie Flynn shot from left only for the ball to be stopped again by a defenders foot on the line, but as the ball rolled over the foot and over the line, the goal was given.

A great goal-filled game with some excellent passages of play. Even better was the news that this result leapfrogged Marlborough over City of Bath in the league table - into the third spot.  

Marlborough News Online Man of the Match was awarded jointly to Amy Davidson, Jess Pugh and Rachel Cox

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Hockey: Marlborough men's weekend of two halves - with a seven-nil victory & a four-all draw promotion beckons

Back row - l to r: Chris Jones, John Berry, Matt Way, Brian Marnane, John Bromley, Charlie Hawley, Rich Flynn, Anil Sud Front row: Ollie Davies, Will Radnedge, Rich Holman, Alex Renwick, Mark KinderBack row - l to r: Chris Jones, John Berry, Matt Way, Brian Marnane, John Bromley, Charlie Hawley, Rich Flynn, Anil Sud Front row: Ollie Davies, Will Radnedge, Rich Holman, Alex Renwick, Mark KinderMarlborough     7        Sidmouth & Ottery     0

For their Sunday (February 19) catch-up game, Marlborough welcomed bottom of the table Sidmouth and Ottery.

Marlborough were utterly dominant in the first half, winning the ball numerous times in the Sidmouth half thanks to some excellent work in the defensive press. The energy levels put in by both John Berry and Charlie Hawley playing inside forwards, forced Sidmouth to either put the ball into the middle channel and risk a turnover or simply revert to long hopeful passes to their forwards.

Marlborough found themselves ahead early in the game following excellent build up play down the right hand side of the pitch. Veteran defender John Bromley carried the ball well and released John Berry, he made his way to the baseline and put the ball across goal for Rich Fynn to turn into the net.

Marlborough doubled their lead shortly after when a quickly taken long corner from Rich Holman found Matt Way in space near the baseline, he played the ball across goal and Rich Fynn was once again there to deflect the ball in from a narrow angle - a superbly taken goal straight off the training ground.

Marlborough continued to apply pressure to the Sidmouth defence and extended their lead from a short corner when Rich Fynn slipped the ball to Charlie Hawley to deflect into the goal.

The first goalThe first goal  ...another goal......another goal...  ...and another......and another...

The lead became four following an excellent passing move by Marlborough to create an overload in the circle, with John Berry once again unselfishly drawing the keeper and squaring the ball to a well placed Mark Kinder who put the ball into the unguarded net.

Shortly before half time Marlborough made it 5-0 following a carbon-copy short corner goal with Charlie Hawley once again finding the net.

...and another......and another...  ...and another......and another...  ...that looks like another......that looks like another...

A minute into the second half John Berry won the ball just outside the Sidmouth 25, he quickly played the ball to the edge of the circle for Matt Way, who drove to the left, drawing the keeper before playing the ball back under his arm to Alex Renwick. Alex calmly rode the final attempted tackle from Sidmouth and put the ball into the open goal.

Marlborough continued to apply pressure high up the pitch and created their seventh and final goal when the ball was played in towards the P spot for Matt Way to deflect it into the corner of the goal on his reverse.

Close marking by the Marlborough squadClose marking by the Marlborough squad  Race you to it...Race you to it...

To give Sidmouth credit they kept fighting right until the final whistle and did come back into the game as more of an attacking threat in the final twenty minutes. Solid work from the Marlborough defensive unit managed to snuff out any half chances and kept the clean sheet intact for the home side.

With Sunday's three points, Marlborough have re-established a six point lead over Bath Buccs at the top of the table and with Bristol University slipping up again and dropping out of the third place, promotion is looking more and more likely for the men in green.

Marlborough.News Man of the match was awarded to John Berry for his fantastic performance from midfield - he really was at the heart of everything positive for Marlborough.

City of Bath A       4          Marlborough       4

Marlborough's first game (Saturday, February 18) of their double header weekend was against a City of Bath team that had given them trouble during the home fixture.  They seemed merely intent on getting the ball to their extremely talented player (No. 7) and leaving him to it.

The way in which the game started set the tone with No7 attempting to go solo from the push back, to his credit he beat three players before being crowded out.

Marlborough settled into the game well and began to win the territorial advantage and apply pressure to the Bath circle. The deadlock was broken when a high turnover from John Berry led to the ball being worked across goal for Rich Fynn to calmly slot the ball into the corner.

Marlborough extended their lead shortly afterwards with Rhys Davies picking the ball up outside the circle and rolling strong, as he crossed into the circle he unleashed a strike into the top corner of the goal.

Marlborough kept control of the game until shortly before halftime when No7 once again carried the ball through numerous Marlborough tackles before winning a short corner - from which No7 flicked the ball into the net for a goal very much against the run of the play.

Marlborough seemed rattled as the second half began. Bath levelled the scores from another short corner when No7 managed to evade the first runner and fired the ball into the corner of the goal.

Things went from bad to worse when Marlborough turned the ball over in the Bath half. The ball was once again immediately played to No7 who carried the ball forward drawing in and beating numerous Marlborough defenders. Brian Marnane was isolated in goal and had no chance as they worked the ball around him to put into the empty goal.

Once again at this point Marlborough showed their character and began to dig in. They were reduced to ten men on two separate occasions. First, Rich Fynn was shown a green card for 'rebuking' (!) a Bath midfielder who certainly held nothing back in every tackle during the game and had rather cynically fouled Rich Flynn.

Marlborough were back to ten men when Ollie Davies was shown a yellow card.  This was more 'team card' and could have easily been awarded to anyone in green for repeated stick tackles and obstruction as No7 continued his one man band act.

Marlborough bought the scores level from a short corner which Alex Renwick won with some of the best elimination moves we have seen.  From the resulting corner Rich Fynn buried the ball into the net with a thunderous strike.

The game continued in an end to end fashion and Bath once again took the lead when Marlborough's defenders were sucked into attempting to stop No7.  He was able to find a Bath forward in space in the circle who finished the move with a very well taken deflection into the corner of the goal.

Marlborough knew that they needed to impose their own brand of passing hockey and did so to equalise. Rich Holman's excellent interception found Matt Way on the half way line.  The ball was released to Alex Renwick on the right wing who played the ball into Rich Fynn who had put in a lung-busting sprint to get onto the P spot.

His first effort was saved by the keeper, but he controlled the rebound well and calmly flicked the ball into the top corner of the goal for another equaliser.

Marlborough.News Man of the Match was awarded to Rich Fynn for composure in front of goal, intelligent movement up front - and his hat-trick.

Click on images to enlarge them...

Perhaps Sunday's excellent performance was down to the team's warm-up routine - accompanied by the junior reserves!Perhaps Sunday's excellent performance was down to the team's warm-up routine - accompanied by the junior reserves!

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Hockey: Marlborough ladies on the front foot with a valuable home win

Marlborough's first goalMarlborough's first goalMarlborough        2         Mendip         1

Marlborough ladies were looking forward to this mid-table clash with Mendip. When the sides had met in November Mendip had come away three-nil winners - so this time the home side were keen to even the score.

In addition Marlborough were still hurting from their shock defeat at the hands of Salisbury the previous weekend and were on the front foot from the off.

From the whistle Marlborough moved the ball with confidence with Rachel Cox dictating the distribution of the ball from the middle of the pitch.

This week the side had a plethora of forwards with Jess Pugh, Catherine Manley, Alice Thompson, Milly Dawson, Anna Strover and the returning Sophie Fynn pressuring the Mendip defence on a quick rotation.

Marlborough moved the ball well spreading the play from one side of the pitch to the other and soon the majority of the play was in the Mendip half. Mendip were dangerous on the break but the Marlborough defence held firm.  

The stalemate was broken half way into the first half when Jess Pugh - adding to her already impressive season's goal tally - slotted one home from close in.

Marlborough knew they had to keep up the pressure as Mendip would not go down without a fight. Once more Marlborough were in the opposition's half when the away side broke away and managed to get a pass across Marlborough's  goal mouth which was converted by a diving Mendip forward at the back post.

Have Mendip scored....?Have Mendip scored....?   ...Yes they have...Yes they have

Marlborough kept their heads up and mounted attack after attack with some near misses on goal.

The breakthrough came just before half time with a clean hard strike from the top of the D by Rachel Cox - boom! the goalkeeper was no where to be seen. Marlborough were two-one up at half time.

Is this Marlborough's second goal?Is this Marlborough's second goal?   The smile says 'Yes it is'The smile says 'Yes it is'

The half time talk was all about keeping doing what we'd been doing in the first half and that's just what Marlborough did.

The defence line of Annabel Ashley, Torie Williams, Amy Davidson, Beth Palfrey and with Anna Scott calling the shots, held firm.  And the ball was often advanced up the pitch.

Mendip did get into the Marlborough D on a handful of occasions but between the defence and goalkeeper VIcky Moxham these attacks were dealt with effectively.

Saved and clearedSaved and cleared   A Mendip breakawayA Mendip breakaway

The midfield of Rachel Cox, Ness Pickford-Smith and Penny Bowen moved the ball well laying on balls to the forwards who were hungry for more goals. But no more goals from either side were scored in the second half so the full time score was a good 2-1 win for Marlborough.

Marlborough News Online player of the match was shared by Anna Scott for commanding the field of play and Amy Davidson for both stealthy defending and attacking play.

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Hockey: Increasing the gap - Marlborough men now eight points clear at top of the league

Marlborough's fourth goal - Anil Sud's shot beats four defenders [Click on image to enalrge it]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 goalA tense moment in front of Marlborough's goal  A Bristol University shot goes wide of Marlborough's goalA 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.

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Hockey: Marlborough men's push for league promotion nets another win

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.

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