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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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Hockey: hail & frustration - with many chances Marlborough ladies rue those elusive goals

Marlborough      0          Salisbury        2

Marlborough felt very optimistic going into this week's game following on from their confident win in their last match.

From the first whistle Marlborough piled on the pressure with early attacking play from Alice Fanshaw, Milly Dawson, Alice Thompson and Catherine Manley. The ball remained in the home team's attacking third for most of the first half thanks to Marlborough's superior press organised from the back by Rachel Cox and Anna Scott.  

Despite all this Marlborough were repeatedly denied a goal by the experienced Salisbury keeper who skillfully managed to save a great number and variety of attempts on her goal.

Salisbury were always waiting to pounce and were very quick on the break when the opportunity arose. The Marlborough defence were made to work hard to catch the breaks and the few opportunities Salisbury had were dealt with efficiently.

Marlborough went into the second half believing it was just a matter of time before the breakthrough came. Once again Marlborough dominated the Salisbury goalmouth and once again the ball just wouldn't go in the goal.

Salisbury were always dangerous and quick on the break and frustrated Marlborough on a handful of occasions. Unable to capitalise from short corners or open play Marlborough began to become a little frantic.

Following a dramatic hailstorm which turned the blue pitch white, Salisbury maintained their composure and leapt on a momentary loss of concentration to score within the last ten minutes of the game.

With momentum of the game suddenly changed in Salisbury's favour, it was not long before they added a second leaving Marlborough in despair over what should have been.

The score line did not reflect how well Marlborough played and the home side can take many positives from the game. Oh for that elusive goal!

Marlborough News Online player of the match went to Rachel Cox for her attacking and defensive role at centre midfield.

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Hockey: "Just about good enough..." - Marlborough men's shaky times & a fortunate winner

Old Bristolians   3    Marlborough   4

Marlborough's first league game after the Christmas break has traditionally not produced the best of results. So when they went 1-0 down to Old Bristolians following a poor defensive turnover, they could have been forgiven for thinking that they had their work cut out.

However they steadied the ship well and began to exert their dominance on the game with lots of pressure on the OB's circle. Marlborough started to turn this pressure into scoring opportunities, but the OB's defence stood firm with numerous blocks and saves to deny an equaliser.

Marlborough did eventually pull themselves level following a well placed flick by Rich Fynn which the OB's keeper could only deflect onto the body of one of his own players standing on the goal-line. With the umpire about to award the penalty stroke, Matt Way was able to react quickest to the loose ball and "prod" the ball over the line.

Following the equaliser, Marlborough began to force mistakes form the OB's back line which resulted in Alex Renwick winning the ball high up the pitch. He intelligently recycled the ball back to Rhys Davies who was working hard to get up with play.   

Davies managed to control the ball well under pressure and play it square to Matt Way who crashed it into the circle towards Will Radnedge who deflected it across goal and into the top corner of the net - a lovely team goal.

Marlborough looked to have survived the storm and were heading for half time when OB's were awarded a short corner following Chris Jones being hit in the head in the circle.  Fortunately the ball wasn't travelling at too great of a pace and so he was able to carry on.

However from the resulting corner OB's were awarded a penalty stroke when following Brian Marnane's first save the ball rebounded high into the air. With numerous bodies underneath the ball and stick's raised above head height play would normally stop and another corner be awarded, however in this instance the umpire decided it "wasn't dangerous" and so allowed play to continue.

The miss-hit from the OB's forward bounced into the turf and up into Chris Jones' body and a penalty stroke was duly awarded.  Brian Marnane was left with no chance with a flick dispatched low to his right and into the sideboard.

Half time at 2-2 and Marlborough knew that OB's would come out with a renewed energy. Once again Marlborough found themselves behind in the game when they conceded a third goal early in the second half due to some more uncharacteristic defending.

Having to chase the game Marlborough upped their intensity and applied high pressure to the OB's defensive line. This resulted in more turnovers inside the OB's half with continued territorial advantage. To their credit OB's defended their circle resolutely and looked dangerous on the counter attack with their lively attacking line.

In the end, Marlborough's efforts were rewarded when they built the ball well to the baseline, Rich Fynn pulled the ball across and the first effort by Marlborough was saved well by the OB's keeper. However the rebound fell to John Berry, who had continued his run from midfield and he calmly slotted the ball into the open goal on his reverse.

OB's seemed to physically drop off with this goal and Marlborough were able to make it a fantastic come-from-behind victory after they scored a fortunate winner.  

John Berry was once again at the centre of it, carrying the ball well to the top of the circle. He saw a gap and drove hard into the circle and got his shot off, unfortunately for OB's, their keeper had misjudged the situation and allowed the ball to roll into the corner of the goal.

Not the way in which you would want to win a game, but Marlborough felt they deserved the victory for their territorial dominance in the game despite some excellent counter-attacking play from OB's.   As one Marlborough player said: "Just about good enough..."

Marlborough News Online Man of the Match was awarded to John Berry for his involvement in most of Marlborough's positive forward play.

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Hockey: Marlborough ladies firsts in seventh heaven as Milly Dawson scores four

The goalie was hoarse from shouting encouragement - etcThe goalie was hoarse from shouting encouragement - etcMarlborough    7      Devizes     0

After a slightly pedestrian start to 2017 the previous week (a three-all draw in a friendly against Wootton Bassett), Marlborough were keen to open the return leg of their league campaign in style.

Taking three points at home against league-strugglers Devizes was the only acceptable outcome, and after the pitch was given the ‘thumbs-up’, the team were raring to go.

A well-drilled warm-up led by Rachel Cox and team-talk from captain Penny Bowen got the team in the right mindset and they felt in control from the first whistle, demonstrating tempo and passion that Devizes were unable to match.

Possession was relatively even in the first quarter, but territory very much in Marlborough’s favour, and after a penetrating attack down the right flank, Ness Pickford-Smith slotted the first home to break the 0-0 deadlock.

Resident terrier, Lottie Colquhoun, was up to her usual tricks, hunting down every Devizes loose ball and placing their defenders under real pressure. Her efforts were soon rewarded with a goal - a fitting way to finish her season before she goes travelling.

Marlborough started the second half positively, attempting to improve their goal difference that could prove crucial in a tight league table. What followed was sensational.

In what can only be described as a bombing raid, Milly Dawson then slotted away four goals in quick succession, ably fed by a supporting cast of Neve Beer, Catherine Manley and new-comer Alice Thompson.

It didn’t all go Marlborough's way, with Devizes testing their defensive line on occasions. However, Anna Scott, Annabel Ashley, Amy Davidson, Beth Palfrey and Tori Williams all held firm and Devizes rarely troubled keeper Vicky Moxham.

Whilst her pads may not have been kept busy however, her vocal chords definitely were! The icing on a pretty successful cake was a final goal scored from a tight angle by Neve Beer, with a significant ‘assist’ from the unfortunate Devizes keeper.  Neve had been unlucky not to score a few minutes earlier from an impressive undercut, and this final goal seemed just reward.

Marlborough News Online Player of the Match was shared between goal-demon Milly Dawson and centre-half Rachel Cox, who deserves the final shout out for her fantastic work rate, tackling and ball distribution throughout the game.

All in all, a very successful day at the office, setting Marlborough up for a meeting with top of the league Bournemouth next weekend.

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