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.
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.