SATURDAY 6 MARCH 2010

M1 PROMOTED AND GO TOP AS L1 WIN AGAIN

Hertford M1 - 0   Stevenage M1 - 13

After clawing a point from a tough game the previous day, the visitors stormed to the top of the table in their rearranged game in hand on Sunday against opponents comfortable in mid-table and fielding a below full strength team. Stevenage now stand a point ahead of Bedford with three games to play, having secured second place and promotion.

In a first half when the ball seemed to hit his feet as often as his stick, Danny Blackburn still claimed two goals and his team-mates were embarrassed  to go in just 3 ahead, Matt Oliver scoring the other. But after the break they really punished the home club for taking the fixture lightly with Blackburn scoring three more (including his side's 100th league goal of the season and his own 42nd) and two goals each for Ben Oliver, Gary Brown and Andy Blaxill. The other goal was a first of the season for Graham Swinyard: and the other first of the season was a clean sheet for keeper Tim Dingley.

Stevenage M1  - 2    Bedford M2 - 2

Jon Oliver celebrates his superb equaliser against Bedford.

Despite being faced with an excellent performance from the league leaders, great strikes Gary Brown and Jon Oliver ensured the title is Stevenage's to win or lose in the remaining games.

The home side took a one goal lead into the break after a first half in which, for once, it was Stevenage's defence that took the plaudits. Despite being under a lot of pressure Matt Oliver, Andy Blaxill, Tim Wright and Chris Nichols restricted Bedford to few chances, and Tim Dingley dealt well with those they had. The one threat the home side posed came from John Mould down the right wing and it was he who broke to enable Ben Oliver to set up Gary Brown for an expertly taken goal.

The second half continued with Bedford asking all the questions but the home side were running out of answers and an equalising goal had to come. It was followed by disappointment as keeper Tim Dingley, after saving well, managed to kick the ball in his own goal to give the visitors the lead. With Mitch Snares sin-binned - and missing the following day's game after a third yellow card of the season - it looked as if Stevenage were heading for defeat. But the match turned again on a goal of brilliance from Jon Oliver who cut in from the right to smash the ball past the advancing keeper to level the scores. With a Bedford player sin-binned and Andy Blaxill pushing up into midfield to put the visitors under pressure with some well hit passes, the home side began to look capable of taking all of the points. However this would have been a very unfair result and shared spoils was the best Stevenage could expect for this performance.

St Albans Exiles  - 4    Stevenage M2 - 0

Skipper James Hamilton bemoaned the lack of strike power in his side but had to admit his team was well beaten by the better side despite an improved showing.

WGC M2  - 2     Stevenage M3 - 2

After twice falling behind the visitors were rescued by two Nick Crocker goals, the second coming with the last strike of the game

Stevenage M4 - 2    Bishops Stortford M6 - 0

Another solid performance from the home side resulted in victory thanks to goals from Ian Brown and Dave Berry, the defender whose second goal of the season has lifted a number of eye-brows around the club

Southgate Adelaide M4 - 1    Stevenage M5 - 0

The visitors continued their recent poor run of results but a much improved performance with Graham Spicer outstanding.

Stevenage M6 - 0    Hertford M4 - 0

A very even and thoroughly enjoyable game in which, in all fairness, the result mirrored the goal-scoring abilities of two sides that would probably not be separated if they were still playing.

Potters Bar L1 - 2    Stevenage L1 - 3

Stevenage played below par but still claimed all the points at Potters Bar. In an uneventful first half the visitors had possession but didn't create opportunities although Steph Fanthorpe shot narrowly wide and Caz Ayles worked hard to keep pressure on the home defence.  Becky Graves, Holly Mould and Claire Young turned over the rare Potters Bar breaks but the midfield players were unable to provide penetrating passes. Towards the end of the half the teams traded penalty corners without troubling the keepers until Carly Seaton was bundled over for a Stevenage penalty corner on the stroke of half-time. With the whole team forward Stevenage made the extra pressure pay when Holly Mould swept the ball between the keepers legs at the third attempt to give her side the lead.

The visitors came out for the second half with a spring in their step and within three minutes Mould, Fanthorpe and Lucy Harvey combined to set Ayles free and she slipped the ball to Carly Seaton who made no mistake in firing home a second. It now looked like a comfortable away victory but Potters Bar were soon back in the game when a short corner was swept home at Jenny Harding's near post. After a tense 10 minute spell Lucy Harvey slammed a loose ball into the back board to increase their lead but even this did not settle Stevenage who needed fine challenges from Rachel Jeffrey and Becky Graves  to stop the home side from reducing the arrears again. Ayles then put a good chance wide before Potters Bar forced a short corner and were able to grab a second goal, but Stevenage held firm in the closing stages to maintain their good run of results in 2010.

Bishops Stortford L3 - 1  Stevenage L2 - 2

Stevenage are locked in a battle with two other sides for second place in the table and gained 3 vital points thanks to a Daisy Mould winner. After a goalless first half the visitors went behind to a penalty flick but Alfi Gunther touched in a Jo Thorpe strike to equalise.

Stevenage L3  - 0  West Herts L3 - 6

The home side never looked capable of turning round their recent run of poor form against table topping opposition.

Stevenage L4 - 0  St Albans L5 - 5

Also playing against the league leaders, Ladies 4s were unable to come close to getting the points they need to cling on to a mid-table position.

Bedford L4 - 5   Stevenage L5 - 0

L5 fared badly against a strong side in a non-league encounter.

SATURDAY 13 MARCH 2010

M1 ONE WIN FROM TITLE AS L1 DRAW A BLANK

As skipper John Mould (pic) recovered from Thursday's shoulder operation his team stood just one win (in two games) from the league title following their victory over tough opponents from Welwyn and Bedford's draw with Hertford

Stevenage M1 - 3  Welwyn Garden City M1 - 1

A well drilled Welwyn Garden City started off the stronger as the home side looked nervous in their play, perhaps with an eye on the title within their grasp, and if it hadn't been for some tremendous tackling from Tom Wharton in the home defence the visitors could have found themselves in the lead early on. A under strength Welwyn side showed no fear and were playing some good hockey causing problems for the home defence and keeper Dingley made some important interventions.
Eventually Stevenage found some rhythm and after a shaky start Andy Blaxill fired some long balls through to Blackburn and Ben Oliver who both came close with good efforts. Welwyn's defence was holding strong and the keeper made a good point blank stop from Swinyard.
The midfield battle was a interesting affair which saw Brown get a green card for a over passionate response to a late challenge. Matt Oliver made some great runs down the right flank before a great pass from Chris Nichol found Blackburn who crossed for Ben Oliver to fire home past a stranded Welwyn keeper to put the league leaders ahead.
Welwyn then had some more attacks which the Stevenage defence of Wharton, Blaxill, Matt Oliver and Nichol managed to keep at bay to the relief of keeper Dingley. On the stroke of half tme the visitors won several penalty corners and were unlucky not to equalise thwarted by a fine save from Dingley.
In the second half Stevenage piled on the pressure and looked like true title contenders. Snares won a short corner after great play from Niall Anderson - Blaxill's shot was deflected home after a neat touch from the impressive Gary Brown to make it 2-0. To Welwyn's credit they still took the fight to Stevenage and the discipline of Graham Swinyard in the home midfield broke down several City attacks. It was soon 3-0 when after Danny Blackburn took the ball past two defenders he saw his goal bound effort rebound off the keeper for Mitchell Snares to fire home with a delicate chip and kill off the visitors hopes of getting back in to this match.
Niall Anderson then saw an effort go wide before Matt Oliver almost provided brother Ben with a open goal but his pass strayed behind him. Andy Blaxill would have got on the scoresheet but his very powerful short corner strike hit Blackburn on the line and went wide.
Welwyn then got on the scoresheet with a well worked goal - after great play from a City midfielder a low cross found their unmarked striker who flicked home perfectly making it 3-1.
This gave the visitors belief again and for the remaining ten minutes they piled on pressure with waves of attacks, but found man of the match Tom Wharton and Chris Nichol in exceptional form, making some fantastic challenges to keep the Welwyn forward line out. Late on Andy Blaxill cleared off the line and Dingley made a double save from a Welwyn attack while at the other end Ben Oliver put well wide after a great ball from Brown.
This result leaves Stevenage three points clear at the top of the table with two matches left: a win next week against Bedford 3s would almost hand them the title as they have a far greater goal difference over second placed Bedford 2s. 

Cheshunt M1 - 9  Stevenage M2 - 0

Meanwhile the club second string fielded a young side who never came to terms with much tougher opponents and are grateful now for points gained earlier in the season.

Bishops Stortford M4 - 5  Stevenage M3 - 1

The trip to the league leaders was effectively a title decider and made without two key players: M3 came away with only a Chris Strickland consolation goal to show for their journey.

Stevenage M4 - 2  Potters Bar M2 - 1

Ian Brown and skipper Simon Russell gave the home side a two goal lead before Russell was sin-binned, but his side held on for an exceptional win against a strong side.

Stevenage M5 - 1  St Albans M7 - 6

The league leaders proved too strong for the home side, Dave Wells scoring their only goal.

Cheshunt M3 - 2  Stevenage M6 - 1

Fortunate to be only two goals behind at the break, a goal from captain Tony Farnan and a battling performance all round left the visitors close to stealing a point.

Hertford L1 - 1  Stevenage L1 - 0

Poor finishing was to blame for the visiting team's first defeat of 2010 as chance after chance, including a Carly Seaton penalty flick, was squandered. Inevitably Hertford punished them by scoring in a rare attack to leave the Stevenage ladies very disappointed.

Stevenage L2 - 2   St Neots L2 - 1

L2 kept the pressure on second placed St Neots with two goals from Bex Church. Four teams are involved in the battle to be runners up to Royston and in-form Stevenage are beginning to look favourites.

Welwyn Garden City L3 - 2  Stevenage L3 - 0

The closest the visitors came to a goal was a short corner effort from Nicki Reynolds which hit the backboard but was not allowed to stand. Both goals came in the second half of an otherwise even game.

Stevenage L4 - 4  Shefford & Sandy L4 - 0

A great performance marred by a serious knee injury for Gill Hamid. Holly Ashworth bagged two goals, with one each for Genna Telfer and Maggie O'Connor.

No game this week for L5

SATURDAY 20 MARCH 2010

NO TITLE FOR M1 .... THIS WEEK

Bedford M3  - 6   Stevenage M1 - 4

Stevenage travelled to relegation threatened Bedford 3s expecting a tough match but knowing that victory would secure the Div 3SW League Title.

Title contenders Bedford 2s left for their match (they won 4 - 3 at WGC to draw level on points with Stevenage at the top) in buoyant mood having seen their club colleagues open the scoring with their very first attack as a right wing move was tapped in at the back post. The home side was allowed to play some good hockey as the visitors adapted to the bouncy surface but neither side was creating chances. Up front, Danny Blackburn and Ben Oliver were unable to keep possession and the visitors were repeatedly pegged back as Bedford cleared their lines with a succession of huge high flicks.

Stevenage were beginning to get a foothold in midfield as Graham Swinyard, Gary Brown and Mark Risley started to pass the ball around but they only looked dangerous when Mike Oliver was running at the home defence. It was this source that won Stevenage two short corners, Blaxill and Brown seeing their efforts saved.

Bedford were soon back on the attack and round the back of the Stevenage defence to make it 2-0 from close range. With minutes to go until half time, Blackburn rounded the keeper and saw his flick saved on the line by a defender. As several players appealed for a penalty, the ball broke to Mike Oliver who was able to slam the ball in on reverse. Stevenage’s joy was short lived as for a third time, the Bedford forwards were able to react quickest to a ball in the goalmouth and tuck the ball in past a helpless Tim Dingley.

Early in the second half Bedford increased their lead to 4-1 with another well worked goal from the right which Dingley was unlucky to keep out with a diving parry in which he picked up a shoulder injury.

A break in play finally sparked a Stevenage revival as Brown’s endeavour found Risley who laid off for Blaxill to cross to Ben Oliver (pic) to sweep home. Minutes later a loose ball was only partially cleared to Gary Brown at the top of the D. With time to set himself he unleashed a brutal reverse stick shot which flashed into the roof of the net before the home keeper had time to move. 4-3 and game on.

Straight away Stevenage were back on the attack and Mike Oliver’s cross was parried wide by Mitch Snares as Brown looked certain to score from the back post. Still the visitors kept coming, this time Ben Oliver wriggling into a good position to cross back but instead choosing to aim a fierce undercut into the top corner of the net.

With 5 minutes to go Stevenage were intent on grabbing the crucial winner, but credit to the home side who managed to retain some possession and win their first short corner of the game. A double deflection meant the shot cruelly crept past the unfortunate Dingley and the final nail was put in Stevenage’s coffin as a second short corner goal for Bedford completed the scoring at 6-4.

Having to field 2 injured players really cost Stevenage some ground in a good competitive game, but it will certainly be noted that the lowly opposition was a strong a team as has been seen in the division all season. Bedford 1XI’s ‘shock’ defeat at home to lower opposition will delight conspiracy theorists, but two facts remain:
1) Losing to a weaker Bedford 3s (and dropping more points in December) earlier in the season were more costly than this spirited defeat in a good game against tactically (but not unreasonably) strengthened opposition.
2) THE LEAGUE IS STILL IN OUR HANDS BOYS, SO LETS SPEND THE WEEK IN THE OXYGEN CHAMBER (Danny, Tim W) GET THIS SATURDAY OFF WORK, AND GET THE 3 POINTS THAT WILL STOP DANNY FROM RUINING THE DINNER FOR EVERYONE!!!

Stevenage M2  - 2   Potters Bar M1 - 5

Despite a much more spirited showing from James Hamilton's young side against the league leaders the visitors raced to a 5-0 lead.  A fine display of courage and grit turned the game from what the 2s have been used to these last few weeks into something to build on when Niall Anderson narrowly missed and Ollie Holt screamed one over the bar.  However, it was the determination of Larry Hamilton and Niall Anderson that pulled two goals back with ten minutes to go.

Stevenage M3 - 6   Blueharts M4 - 0

This win clinched second place and promotion for the home side who lead 5 - 0 at half time. Harp Mann grabbed a hat-trick, Khalid Mehmood a brace and Nick Crocker scored the other.

Cheshunt M2  - 5   Stevenage M4 - 2

The visitors raced to a two goal lead with goals from Adam Presland and Chris Barry, but folded against the league leaders having guaranteed a respectable top half of the table position themselves.

West Herts M6  - 1   Stevenage M5 - 1

The home side took an early lead, equalised before half time by Kevin Wharton, but found visiting keeper Mike Hamid in great form.

Stevenage M6    v   Potters Bar M3

A tremendous win for the league's bottom team, against a Bar side still in the hunt for promotion, means they cannot now finish bottom. Harry Wheeler scored the opening goal and also forced Ray Blaxill's cross over the line for the winner after the visitors levelled.

Stevenage L1  - 0   Welwyn Garden City L1 - 1

For the second successive week the home side monopolised the ball, could not convert possession into goals, and then lost the game to the only chance the opposition created

Stevenage L2   - 3   Letchworth L3 - 1

The home side must wait for results from St Albans to see if this win gives them promotion. Prompted by Jo Thorpe they raced to a 3 - 0 lead through Hannah Finch, Alfi Gunther and Bex Church.

Bishops Stortford L4  - 5   Stevenage L3 - 2

The loser of this match was to be rewarded with relegation, but it was a game played in great spirit and the visitors at least achieved a couple of goals after a long drought. Annabelle Reilly tapped in a rebound from the post and Claudia Strickland smashed home a rebound from the keeper's pads.

No game for L4 this week

Stevenage L5   - 1   Hertford L4  -  3

Stevenage lost out on another battle for bottom league place after holding their visitors to 1 - 1 at half time with a goal from Lou Nickell.

SATURDAY 27 MARCH 2010

MOULDY GETS THE TITLE HE WANTED

West Herts M2 - 1  Stevenage M1 - 3

Stevenage finished off their League Campaign at West Herts knowing that they would be league champions if they won, and started strongly with a flurry of attacks against a very well drilled home team. Steve Scholes and Andy Blaxill were causing problems for the hosts with accurate long balls to the Stevenage forwards who were moving well into wide positions. The first real opportunity fell when after a great midfield interception from Gary Brown fell to Scholes who screamed the ball to Blackburn, this left the attacker one on one with the impressive Herts keeper who was equal to the shot keeping the score level. 

Stevenage, as ever, kept the game very open and this gave the hosts chances of their own, with man of the match Tim Dingley making some awesome saves, the most notable from a fierce strike which was heading for the roof of the net, tipped it over the bar with Dingley's stick. Tim Wright and Tom Wharton were also needed to make crucial tackles, but Matt and Michael Oliver were making some tremendous runs down the wings and supplying Blackburn and Ben Oliver up front. Gary Brown then saw a effort brilliantly saved after a great through ball from Graham Swinyard. At the other end Dingley was still making saves and the only effort which did beat him was cleared off the goalline by the ever reliable Tim Wright.

A goal was coming but it was impossible to say at which end. It came, much to the delight of injured Stevenage Captain John Mould, for his side when, after a great ball from Mike Oliver, brother Ben crossed to find the ever present Danny Blackburn who tucked the ball tidily past the keeper.

Matt Oliver then broke through and put his shot just wide when perhaps brother Ben and Gary Brown were better placed. West Herts continued to push forward as well and if the Stevenage defence hadn't been on their game would have surely scored despite keeper Dingley. Even so defender Tim Wright found time to push forward and almost created a second goal when Blackburn hit just wide. Both keepers continued in fine form and to the frustration of the strikers, especially Gary Brown whose effort flew off the post via the keepers hand. Stevenage had one last chance to extend the lead before halftime but Andy Blaxill saw his short corner brilliantly saved yet again.

After a inspiring half time team talk from John Mould and assistant coach Ken Crome, Stevenage started the second half at a electric pace knowing another goal would prove crucial in the destiny of the title. It came within two minutes an almost perfect hockey counter attack - Andy Blaxill made a superb interception then fired the ball to Ben Oliver who in turn found Danny Blackburn on a great run down the right wing, Blackburn's inch perfect cross found Michael Oliver who rounded the keeper to fire home the goal which was surely to give the visitors the title.

It was to get even better three minutes later when Swinyard set Michael Oliver on a mazy dribble - he then crossed the ball behind the Herts defence where a unmarked Danny Blackburn had slipped through to fire home his second and give Stevenage a 3-0 lead. To the credit of West Herts they stepped up again and were pushing forward with flair and determination, luckily Wright, Scholes, Blaxill and Wharton were in fine form and managed to keep their opponents at bay. Tim Dingley was also still having the game of his life and stopping anything hit at him. Ben Oliver then had a effort well saved before Brown saw a reverse strike just go over the bar.

West Herts finally scored when a brilliant move down their right flank was finished off in style with a shot that even Dingley couldn't stop to make it 3-1. Stevenage were then put under tremendous pressure with both Wright and Steve Scholes clearing off the goal line. Both sides were playing tremendous hockey and this was a fitting way to end the season. Matt Oliver was combining well with Swinyard, Brown and Michael Oliver in the visitors midfield and this almost resulted in a fourth goal when Swinyard hussled the Herts defence enough for Blackburn to creep in but his effort was saved. Ben Oliver then hit a post before, at the other end, Wharton deflected a goalbound effort off for a short corner. By the end of the game West Herts were pushing hard and probably deserved a second goal however this was one of Stevenage's finest performances of the season and they defended relentlessly to keep Herts out. Dingley was forced in to a late save and Blaxill made another crucial interception before the final whistle confirmed Stevenage as League Champions.

Fittingly, in view of the attacking approach to the season, the title was won on goal difference - a massive 25 goals better than the runners up - but  Skipper John Mould's classy team have thoroughly deserved their success this season.
 

Stevenage M2 - 1   Hertford M2 - 2

Nial Anderson gave the home side the lead before a nasty injury to young forward Adam Spicer, who ended the day on crutches. The visitors winner came in the dying seconds of the game and left James Hamilton waiting to hear that Letchworth M3 had lost to save his team from a finish in the bottom two.

Stevenage M3 - 4  Winchmore Hill & Enfield M2 - 3

Khalid Mehmood gave the league runners up a two goal lead but they were pegged back to 2 - 2 before Harp Mann put them ahead again.  Khalid completed his hat-trick before a third for the visitors lead to a nervy finish.

Broxbourne M5 - 2  Stevenage M4 - 1

A strong Broxbourne side's early lead was cancelled by Adam Presland but the home side then put pressure on the visiting defence which eventually paid off despite a great performance from Dave Berry making his goalkeeping debut.

Southgate Adelaide M4 - 4  Stevenage M6 - 4

With the home side confirmed as runners up and the visitors second from bottom a close game was not expected but Stevenage M6 extended their recent run of good performances and were unlucky not to win this one, conceding a late equaliser. Two goals for Captain Tony Farnan and one each for youngsters Andy Davies and Harry Wheeler

Phoenix L1 - 2  Stevenage L1 - 3

The visitors were obliged to give first team debuts to Jo Howlett and Nicki Reynolds - both usually play at third team level and both acquitted themselves well - and not too surprisingly found themselves 1 - 0 down at half-time. Carly Seaton set up Caz Ayles to lob the keeper for an equaliser, then Ayles slotted home to give them the lead and Holly Mould's clean strike completed the comeback despite a late second for the home side.

Tring L3 - 1  Stevenage L4 - 3

Goals from Genna Telfer, Emma Houlihan and Maggie O'Connor helped the visitors leap-frog Tring to finish in a respectable mid table position after some relegation scares.


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