Stevenage M1 - 4 Saffron Walden M1 - 3
The visit to (Fortress) Nobel of a young Saffron Walden team was expected to be the easiest fixture for some time despite the absence of 2 of the 3 leading scorers (Gary Brown and Ben Oliver). This expectation was immediately quashed as the visitors started the game at a frenetic pace, using width both sides, depth and overlapping runs to dominate early exchanges. Walden were quickly rewarded with the opening goal of the game and continued the pace, threatening the Stevenage goal from all angles, using the whole pitch and confusing the Stevenage defence with extra men appearing seemingly out of nowhere.
With about 10 minutes on the clock, Walden deservedly doubled their lead, and still the tempo didn’t abate. The Stevenage back 3 were being pulled everywhere, with the sweeper redundant because of the emphasis on a quick passing game. Dingley, in goal, was forced into making several blocks to keep the score down as the inevitable tactical change came. Graham Swinyard dropped from midfield to adopt a man-to-man role with skipper John Mould making his presence known up front as Stevenage gradually got a foothold in the game. Zac Shaw managed to win Stevenage’s first short corner and Blaxill forced the first save from the visitors’ keeper after a 1-2 with Jon Oliver. Stevenage got on the scoresheet from the next short corner as Blaxill’s low strike to the corner was too powerful for the defender on the line who deflected the ball into the roof of the net.
Saffron Walden were able to restore their high tempo and a now flowing game of hockey ensued with the visitors deservedly restoring their 2-goal lead with an excellent passing goal which left the Stevenage defence chasing shadows. 3-1 down and Stevenage knew they had to be more aggressive in the second half and were able to give more possession to key men Danny Blackburn, John Mould and Jon Oliver. It was Blackburn who quickly halved the deficit, controlling Blaxill’s drilled pass and expertly firing past the keeper from close range: game on.
Saffron Walden were still asking most of the questions through the majority of the 2nd half, especially as the rapidly tiring Stevenage defence were twice down to 10 men. First Matt Oliver (forehead), and then Jason Miller (knee) were struck with the ball and went off to receive attention. Without a substitute, Stevenage weathered the storm well for a late onslaught. As the visitors started to play more nervously on their slender lead, the hosts struck an equaliser with Chris Strickland recovering the pieces from a scrappy short corner routine and Mould reacting well to finish clinically at the second attempt with little more than 5 minutes left on the clock.
For the first time in the match, Stevenage looked capable of taking the spoils and the home support were rewarded for their patience. Strong build up play from Jon Oliver found Strickland inside the 25 and his clever through pass fed Zac Shaw on the right of the circle. With plenty still to do, the tireless youngster flicked calmly but powerfully over the advancing keeper to make his first goal for the team a memorable late winner, and there was much rejoicing as Stevenage now look to have cemented a top half finish in their first season back in Div 2S.
Stevenage M2 - 0 St Albans M5 - 5
St Albans played well and won 5-0. Stevenage didn't and lost.
James in understandably down-beat mode.
Berkhamsted - 1 Stevenage M3 - 4
The visitors recovered slowly from the disappointment of an early disallowed strike, but a relatively youthful side put in a powerful second half display with goals from Nick Crocker (2), Jack Neville and a scrambled effort claimed by Roger Barlow.
West Herts M5 - 1 Stevenage M4 - 2
Stevenage 4s finally stopped their free fall down the league with a close 2-1 victory over West Herts. Stevenage had all the early play but went a goal down after 15 minutes. Stevenage should have been level moments later but Skipper Simon Russell fired wide with the goal at his mercy after Ian Brown's original shot had been saved. West Herts found their efforts thwarted by a stubborn Stevenage defence and some fine saves from Tim Dingley. The midfield of Digger Graves, Will Hammond and Andy Davies stepped up a gear and started to impose themselves on the game, and it was good work from the trio that lead to Harp Mann's near post equaliser.
The second half was more open and both teams had chances to take the lead but both keepers were called into action to keep the score line level. Just when the game seemed to be heading for a draw , great use of the self pass from Digger Graves found the West Herts defence asleep as Digger dribbled into the D unchallenged and fired a low shot past the West Herts keeper to secure all 3 points. The win saw the 4s move up 2 places in the league and further away from the relegation zone in division 7SW.
West Herts M6 - 1 Stevenage M5 - 1 (friendly)
It was a more composed and better organised Stevenage side that faced West Herts after the 8-1 thrashing at their hands last week, with guest appearances from Nigel Hall, Tony Farnan, Tom Woolley and Nick Russell. A very evenly matched game that provided several missed opportunities for both sides – at half-time, the score was still goalless, thanks to some assertive defending and several spectacular saves from keeper Daniel Dove.
A series of short corners at the Stevenage end were bravely defended, but West Herts eventually slotted one through. After a brief spell of lost shape, Stevenage started linking the passes smoothly, and were rewarded with a goal from David Spicer. Buoyed with a fresh enthusiasm, Stevenage battled strongly on until the end, but were unable to break the deadlock and finished 1-1. Sadly, the game was a friendly, so no point, but plenty to take away for next weeks difficult game against Bedford Vets.
Luton M4 - 5 Stevenage M6 - 0
As Ian Holloway might have said Stevenage were lucky to get nil in this match. Totally outplayed, only the courage of keeper Damien Nowopiski and sharp eyes of umpire Ian Roberts kept the score countable despite the efforts of players all over the pitch against a young, confident and well coached home side. Having said this, Josh Poulton, Alex Day, Joe Moran and the other Stevenage (younger than Luton's) youngsters continue to make good progress.
Wapping L2 - 1 Stevenage L1 - 3
Stevenage 1st team enjoyed a hard earnt win at Wapping to boost their position in East League Division 2SW. The game started at a frantic pace and Jude Weston, Sacha Parker, Kate Murray and Debbi Church had already linked well in attack before Murray swept the ball under a diving keeper to finish a fine break in only the fourth minute.
It was end-to-end action all first half, with the hosts making some decent breaks of their own. A truly inspired Carly Seaton denied Wapping at the top of the circle with some fine tackles and clearances before some neat passing left Stevenage keeper Lisa Pickard exposed on 15 minutes - but she stood up to the challenge and sprung high to her right to palm a flicked effort wide. At the other end Church and Murray came close to doubling Stevenage's lead, then Wapping came back at Stevenage but challenges from 21st Birthday girl Becky Graves, Rachel Jeffrey and Seaton stopped them getting through.
Seaton's skills in midfield gave Stevenage some respite and she picked out Weston and Murray, whose pace and movement helped win further chances from penalty corners. At the end of the half, Nicky George suffered an awkward fall and the resulting ankle injury put her out of action and unsettled the Stevenage defence. Wapping took advantage and won a flurry of penatly corners but Pickard was quick to get down and block any attempts that got through.
With Wapping boasting an impressive goal difference of 31 ahead of the match, Stevenage knew they would be in for a battle in the second half, and for the first six minutes it was complete backs to the wall. Stevenage defended with commitment as a team and Graves and Pickard, in particular, got their sticks to the ball at crucial moments. Weston and Seaton started to win possession in front of the 23 metre line and their passes found Church and Caroline Ayles, who worked tirelessly as outlets throughout the second half - impressive in the case of Ayles, playing more minutes than she envisaged in her first 1st XI outing since becoming a mother.
Wapping weren't without possession for long, however, and they looked to have equalised from another penalty corner, but no. A low shot hit the inside of Pickard's right post and in ensuring the ball did not cross the line, Graves could only divert it onto the other post, with a Wapping attacker firing wide from only one yard.
Stevenage quickly moved the ball up the field and won a penalty corner of their own when Seaton was harshly upended just inside the 23. She dusted herself down then belted a low first-time drive in off the very inside of the keeper's right-hand upright to put distance between the teams.
It wasn't 2-0 for long though, Wapping finally converting one of their penalty corners with a well struck shot two minutes later and with 15 still to go. This did not deter Stevenage and the skill of Seaton allowed an increase in possession. Wapping had started to double up on Seaton to try to stop her and this meant contact and Stevenage free hits. One such hit was quickly taken and a flick from Church put Ayles through on goal, her jab being marginally touched wide by the oncoming keeper.
Pickard, Graves and a returning George kept Wapping at bay in the tense final minutes before Stevenage added to their penalty corner success rate with just over a minute left on the clock. Seaton and Parker exchanged passes and Parker parried an attempted clearance from her own shot back over the line for 3-1. A final push from Wapping could not provide a consolation goal and an important three points was taken.
With thanks to our writer with a whistle for this uniquely impartial report
St Neots L2 - 2 Stevenage L2 - 1
This defeat meant the home side leapfrogged their opponents at the bottom of the table leaving Stevenage in the relegation zone. In a good, open game the visitors perhaps lacked the defensive fortitude at one end and the offensive penetration at the other to deserve points. Jo Thorpe, with a fierce strike from a penalty corner just before half-time, equalised the St Neots opener but the home side went ahead early in the second half and did not really look in danger of losing their lead.
Enigma L1 - 1 Stevenage L3 - 0
A rather early start and a long trip to MK affected the 3's followed by a pitch which could be likened to playing on grass. The oppo scored early in the 1st half and although we had excellent some chances it was not to be. Ros Fewell was unanimously voted player of the match after a good performance.
Stevenage L4 - 2 Tring L4 - 3
Top position Tring came with a strong squad to ensure their promotion, early goals in the first half from the oppo put the home side 2-0 down at half time, Stevenage re-grouped and attacked in the second half with some excellent defensive play and mid field coverage not giving Tring many openings, Nikki Davies broke through their defence and scored our first goal which was quickly followed by a short corner for us which gave us level 2-2 score line after a tidy 1st strike from Nikki Davies, but it was not to be our week as Tring managed to get a further goal towards the end of the game. An enjoyable and well battled game against a good oppo team.
Rothamsted L2 - 3 Stevenage L5 - 1 (friendly)
Another early meet saw our ladies 5s head over to Dunstable with a brave face for a friendly game against a team from the division above – the final score line being 3-1 loss - yet still a very respectable outcome which included a super goal from Liza Timpson.