Cullum on target as Saints hold Sevenoaks

HOCKEY: AN adrenaline pumped St Albans Ladies 1st XI took to their home turf for the first time this season, against a well drilled Sevenoaks side.

AN adrenaline pumped St Albans Ladies 1st XI took to their home turf for the first time this season, against a well drilled Sevenoaks side. The crowd were thirsty for action, and action they saw.

Confident after a draw at Horsham last week, the saints were barely phased by a frustrated Sevenoaks, forcing them wide and holding their central structure with great discipline. The home side took advantage with a few classy breaks and some cracking balls down the line from Sarah Walsh; the silky skills of Clare Beattie almost broke the deadlock once more, and suddenly St. Albans looked the most likely to score, with efforts from captain Katie Hockley and Melissa Ball coming close.

Alexis Hamilton broke speedily down the left and fed the ball in for Tasha Webster to hammer a shot at goal and force a sharp save from the ‘keeper. The ball bobbled and with the defence scrambling and struggling to clear, it was Sarah Cullum who popped up to scoop the ball into the net to make it 1-0 to the home side.

Donning white for the first time this year, St Albans tried to hold on but they were caught on the back foot when a somewhat ambivalent display from Cathy Gilliat-Smith turned slightly more clinical as she scored from an almost impossible angle – the result of a penalty corner.

Man of the match, Donna Pringle, was as solid as ever in defence, a true force to be reckoned with. Throw in a dose of Parsons in the centre of the park, a little bit of magic from Oatridge between the sticks, the attacking flare of Panniers and Gummer and some perfectly timed tackles from Bloch and Dobson, and you’ve got yourself a cracking 1-1 draw against a side pushing for the Premier Division.

Next week St. Albans are off to Cambridge in search of their first 3 points.

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Saints: Oatridge, Bloch, Pringle, Cullum, Webster, Hockley (Capt), Parsons, Beattie, Panniers, Walsh, Gummer, Hamilton, Dobson, Ball.

n After winning promotion last year, Exiles kicked off in 3SW with an away fixture to Berkhamsted, who finished mid-table in 3SW last year. Exiles started brightly and for 30 mins were the only team who looked like scoring, playing some of the best hockey in the last couple of years.

Exiles deservedly took the lead after about 20 mins when man of the match, Adam Ross, cut through the entire Berkhampstead defence before calmly sliding past the ‘keeper.

Exiles extended the lead a couple of minutes later when a repeat attack saw last season’s top scorer, Simon White, finish from close range. Almost from the restart the Exiles were back on the attack and a rather messy passage of play saw Martin Jones free at the back post, he made no mistake from about a metre out.

Exiles were playing some classy hockey, but with less than three minutes left of the first half, Berkhamsted were awarded a penalty corner. Despite thwarting the initial attack, Berkhamsted were awarded a retake from which a flick found the back of the Exiles net. This seemed to buoy the Berkhamsted side and as the half time whistle approached, they were awarded a free hit at the edge of the Exiles ‘D’. With Exiles defenders switched off, the ball was played into the ‘D’ to the Berkhamsted forward who placed a shot hard and low past the Exiles ‘keeper.

The second half was no more than two minutes old when a break by Ross found Simon White wide on the right. His first time cross found Jones unmarked and he was able to calmly slide home to give the Exiles a two goal advantage.

The game became rather fractious and Berkhamsted were reduced to 10 players when Ross was callously hacked from behind as he bore down on goal. This was evened up seconds later as Exiles were reduced to 10 for dissent.

Berkhamsted reduced the deficit when the ball was played into the Exiles ‘D’. Despite hitting more legs than on a table the ball was bundled over the line.

Exiles continued to attack, but could not press home their advantage but despite this took all three points in their first game in 3SW. They hope to build against Welwyn 1’s next week with a 10am start at Clarence Park.