Tangerines claim first victory

Sevenoaks defeated at Clarence Park

HOCKEY: St Albans Men’s First team had back-to-back games over the weekend and picked up their first win of the season against Sevenoaks at Clarence Park.

St Albans knew that a win was necessary against a Sevenoaks side placed just below them at the foot of the table.

The game started scrappily and it was the visiting side who opened the scoring when a lifted cross was deflected unluckily into his own net by Saints defender Andy Dixon.

Sevenoaks rasied their game, and continued to probe the St Albans back line, with only some excellent work from goalkeeper Ian Fraser keeping the Tangerines in the game.

St Albans had a couple of half chances before the break but couldn’t find a goal.

St Albans came out after the break with renewed spirit, and were rewarded with the leveller when Dixon slotted home from a penalty corner.

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St Albans continued to push forward and took the lead through Stephen Friend. Having being fouled near the left touchline, Friend took a quick free hit to himself and drove powerfully into the Sevenoaks circle, beating two players in the process, before firing home.

After seeing off several threatening attacks St Albans launched a counter offensive that saw player-coach Glenn Webster fouled cynically as he was about to shoot. Dixon stepped up and coolly flicked the inevitable penalty stroke into the roof of the net.

In the final five minutes striker Dave Williams put the game beyond doubt when he ran beyond the final defender to meet Steve Hurworth’s clever through ball and took the ball past the ‘keeper before finishing high into the net.

* The Tangerines followed up their excellent win against Sevenoaks with an equally encouraging performance against Premier League side Reading.

St Albans knew that a fast start was imperative against Reading, and the home side duly obliged.

Glenn Webster stole the ball in midfield, and some clever interplay down the right nearly resulted in the opening goal. Moments later St Albans came close again when striker Brett Holland was denied by a deflection from a defender.

Reading managed to get hold of the ball for their first meaningful possession and duly scored following an incisive counter attack.

The Tangerines, nevertheless, responded well to this setback and could have scored on several occasions before half time, with Stephen Friend in particular unlucky to see the ‘keeper keep out his deflected shot.

St Albans yet again found themselves on the wrong end of a one-goal deficit at half time and yet again started the second half at a high tempo. The home side levelled the scores just minutes into the second period when an excellent move down the right hand side found Alan Miller with space in the Reading circle. Miller calmly rolled the ball past the Reading ‘keeper to Dave Williams who had no trouble in finishing.

St Albans sensed an upset was on the cards and continued to press, creating a series of chances, and their positive approach was rewarded with a goal from Stephen Friend. After switching play well from the left, Webster found the time and space at the top of the circle to pick out Friend, and the Saints forward made no mistake with a clever angled finish.

With just over 10 minutes on the clock and a slender lead, St Albans were perhaps guilty of sitting back, but the young Reading side needed no further encouragement to claw their way back into the game.

The visiting side levelled things from a penalty corner and, disappointingly for St Albans, proceeded to take the lead just two minutes later from another penalty corner to seal a 3-2 win.

* Exiles entertained a strong powerful Welwyn Garden City side to Clarence Park with an unfamiliar team sheet.

They were without their strike partnership of Jones and top scorer, Simon White, who were both unavailable.

The game started brightly with chances for both sides. Both Howeson and Ross had good chances to give Exiles the lead, but the Welwyn ‘keeper was in fine form.

At the other end the defence was looking sound, but Welwyn were not without their own chances, with Fretter making a string of important stops.

Midway through the first half Welwyn broke the deadlock when Exiles lost the ball in their 23 metre area. The Welwyn forward passed a couple of tackles and stuck a hard, low shot across Fretter in the Exiles goal, who had no chance.

Exiles continued to press for the equaliser but neither side were able to dominate the game.

After 10 mins of the second half Welwyn extended their lead. Winter’s weak pass only found a Welwyn stick, who easily played a one-two past Winter. As they bore down on goal, Fretter made a deflective save, only into the path of another Welwyn striker, who fired home.

Both sides then lost players to the sin-bin. Exiles were staring a defeat in the face, but with 20 minutes left they were back in the game. After a number of slick passes the ball was played into space within the Welwyn ‘D’. Nick Walker was first to the ball and stabbed it over the advancing ‘keeper and into the empty net.

With both sides back to full strength, it was the Exiles who were on top, although Welwyn always looked strong when attacking. However, they were unable to find a way past the outstanding Fretter in the Exiles goal who repelled every shot.

With five minutes left the Exiles were level. A long aimless ball from the Exiles defence was rolling safely towards the Welwyn goal line. The Welwyn ‘keeper comfortably shielded the ball from the Exiles runners. However, he suddenly got his feet tangled and fell into a heap on the floor allowing Ross to walk the ball into an empty net.

Next week Exiles make the trek to Shefford and Sandy looking for another three points.