Draw good enough for Tangerines

HOCKEY: ST ALBANS Mens first team made all but sure that they will avoid automatic relegation with a 1-1 draw against Oxted on Saturday.

They are now three points clear of Sevenoaks in the EHL East Conference table with one game to play, but have a vastly superior goal difference to the South London side.

Oxted, sitting comfortably in mid-table and with little to play for, entered the game in a somewhat casual manner and St Albans, knowing that defeat must be avoided, were happy to occupy possession of the ball in the early stages.

The home side looked comfortable playing the possession game, but were given an early scare when Malcolm Yull had to save from close range after a counter attack from Oxted.

The Tangerines began to push forward more and a superb aerial pass from Andy Dixon found Tom Roberts alone in the visitors’ circle, with only some good work from the Oxted goalkeeper denying him the opening goal. Alan Miller also worked his way into the game, causing the Oxted defence problems with some probing runs.

In the end it was Brett Holland who scored the opening goal five minutes before the break, committing the ‘keeper and firing into the net after some excellent one-touch hockey from St Albans down the left hand channel.

Into the second half St Albans knew that a second goal would all but kill the game off against a somewhat lethargic Oxted team and the home side came close on several occasions.

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However, in a display that was reminiscent of some performances from earlier in the season, St Albans were unable to put the ball into the net and it was Oxted who managed to equalise with a deflected finish after some direct passing through the centre of the pitch.

Barry Murphy came close to restoring the lead for St Albans when his deflected shot went just wide before St Albans were reduced to 10 men as captain Paul Cooper was sin-binned for breaking down play. As a result St Albans found themselves hanging on at the end when they should perhaps have put the game to bed, but the match finished at 1-1 in a result that satisfied the Tangerines.

St Albans are now almost certain to finish in ninth place in the league and will therefore play the teams finishing in ninth in the North and West conferences in an effort to secure one place in the National League for next season.