Saturday 24th November 2012

L2s 1 - Cheshunt 1s 2

Stevenage need to come up with a cunning plan to outfox teams which employ the ‘kettling’ technique. Much like their experience against Bedford earlier in the month, the reds found themselves hemmed in by Cheshunt, resulting in an inability to raise their heads and find the vital clear space. Stevenage could not be faulted for their work rate but, much like a fly repeatedly banging its head against a window, they couldn’t break through the courdon however hard and often they hit it. Cheshunt went one ahead before half time, grabbing a break and capitalising on a slightly tentive defensive response. Despite being soaked to the skin, Stevenage re-doubled their efforts and won a short corner in the early minutes of the 2nd half.

Under flood lights and persistant rain, Jo Thorpe’s trademark exocet proved impossible to spot and the resulting smack on the backboard briefly lifted the visitor’s spirits. Sadly, the euphoria was short lived as a goal front scramble allowed Cheshunt to put the winner away. Stevenage battled on but by this time a combination of cold hands and soggy stick handles hampered the simplest of skills leaving the reds frustrated. Hopefully both kit and players will be sufficiently dried out and warmed up by next Saturday to face Hertford who, with any luck, limit using their kettles for post match teas.

M1s 4 - Chelmsford 2s 4
(Ben Oliver, Paul Graves, Danny Blackburn (2))

Saturday was seen as a crucial match for league strugglers Stevenage as they entertained the side closest to them in the league fourth from bottom Chelmsford.

Both sides are at present in the relegation zone with Stevenage trailing their opponents by six points. This was a must win match for Jon Oliver’s men and started in the best possible fashion for his team. After a good build up in the first minute of the game between Laurie Brown and Blackburn sent Ben Oliver on his way, Oliver looked to have been closed down when he produced a moment of magic by wrong footing his marker and reverse striking the ball past a motionless keeper to give his brothers side an early 1-0 lead. Stevenage pushed for another as confidence was flowing through the side, they then won a penalty corner after good combination play between James Hamilton and Stevie Hamid. From the resulting corner Paul Graves flicked the ball high in to the net giving the keeper no chance with the accuracy of the finish and more importantly a 2 goal lead to the side.

Graves then got a knock and had to leave the pitch to get patched up, this seemed to unsettle Stevenage and the visitors pulled a goal back after poor marking to make it 2-1. At this point Stevenage still were the better side and were creating chances with Matt Oliver constantly breaking down the right and causing problems for the Chelmsford defence. Bailey Dingley then put Dan Farnan through on goal but the keeper advanced quickly to deny Farnan a clear goal scoring chance.

Jon Oliver with the help of Graham Swinyard and Ben De Laune was marshalling the midfield and keeping the visitors in check. Ben Oliver and Blackburn were combining well and this partnership resulted in a third goal for the home side when after a quick one two between the pair Danny Blackburn fired home to make it 3-1to the hosts.

Chelmsford also had several chances with Hamilton clearing off the goal line and keeper Dan Dove pulling off a couple of great saves. There were definitely more goals to come and it was Stevenage who got their fourth when Jon Oliver put brother Ben through and his fine pass found Danny Blackburn again to slide the ball home to collect his second of the day and make the score 4-1. The Stevenage forwards were getting lots of ball thanks to some great passes from the likes of Laurie Brown and Graham Swinyard. Farnan’s pace was a nuisance to the Chelmsford back line as he created himself a couple of good openings unfortunately his efforts didn’t trouble the keeper enough. Just before the break Chelmsford got a second goal from a short corner to bring the scoreline closer, but surely even Stevenage could not throw this lead away....could they???

In the second half both teams went for it with Stevenage looking for the killer goal whereas the away side looked for the next crucial goal which would get them back in the game. The first real chance fell to Stevenage when Dingley crossed for Ben De Laune, whose effort went agonisingly wide. Then after a good ball from Matt Oliver Bailey Dingley hit an effort high and wide. Jon Oliver then went on a mazy run before being totally taken out by the Chelmsford forward who was lucky not to see a card. From the resulting free hit Blackburn sent a great ball to Ben Oliver who struck a superb effort which was somehow stopped by the keeper as it was flying toward the top of the net. Chelmsford then started to move up the field themselves and forced some good saves from Dan Dove and forced Graves and Hamilton in to some good tackles, on one occasion Stevie Hamid cleared again off the goal line.

The next goal went the way of the visitors from a penalty corner which gave Dove no chance as the ball was sweetly struck. As in weeks gone by Stevenage got panicky and before long it was 4-4 when the Chelmsford centre forward was left unmarked to pick up his hat-trick. The balance of the game had changed and Stevenage were now on the back foot with the defence making important challenges to keep the oppo out. Victory was vital for Jon Olivers men who were now penned back in their own half. To their credit they defended well and in the final minute had one last chance to snatch victory. A great attack involving Jon, Ben and Matt Oliver ended in a great save from the opposition keeper, the rebound however flew out to the Chelmsford winger who sprinted forward as the home side were all out of position. The last defender was Graves who had a three on one situation, the Chelmsford winger found his centre forward who surely would score. He got the shot away but Dan Dove made an amazing save to keep the score level. The final whistle went in an entertaining affair at 4-4. The disappointment was clear to see on the Stevenage faces as they knew the three points had been squandered.

Other results:

M2s lost 8-5 to Hertford with the goals coming from O.Holt (2), C.Watson, T.Woolley and H.Wheeler.
M3s lost 7-3 to Welwyn GC 2s with a hat trick from Niall Anderson.
M4s lost 3-2 to Bedford 5s with the goals coming from Ian Brown and Aidan Parker.
L1s drew 1-1 with Hertford Nat Davis scoring. < br/> L3s Beat Broxbourne 5s 3-1 with hat trick from Nicky Reynolds.
L4s lost 1-0 to Bedford 4s.

Saturday 27th October 2012

M1 3 - Clacton 5
(Matt Oliver, Danny Blackburn, Gary Brown)

The bottom two clashed on Saturday as Stevenage hoped to keep their momentum going after their impressive victory over league leaders Upminster a week earlier.
Stevenage as usual for an away day had a few players missing but Jon Oliver was in confident mood that his team would rise to the challenge and collect something from this fixture.
The early signs however were not good as Clacton took an early lead after some poor defending in the Stevenage ranks. Matters got worse as keeper Tim Dingley got injured after making a crucial stop and appears to have torn a calf muscle.  It was soon 2-0 when Clacton counter attacked and a good move was passed around Dingley whose injury made it impossible for him to move.
The visitors then got some flow to their game with Jon Oliver and Gary Brown creating a few openings for the likes of Blackburn, Farnan and Bailey Dingley to cause a nuisance to the Clacton defence.
Ben DeLaune combined well with Graham Swinyard to win a penalty corner from which Matthew Oliver pulled a goal back to make it 2-1 at the break.
The second half started with two more crucial injuries to Stevenage players DeLaune and Bailey Dingley with the team effectively down to 8 players the defence did well to hold out with Stevie Hamid and Chris Strickland making several important challenges but in the end two quick goals all but killed off Stevenage’s hopes of winning the game.  To their credit they pulled two goals back both from short corners thanks to Danny Blackburn and Gary Brown but late on Clacton added a fifth after Strickland was sin binned.
The defeat leaves Stevenage at the bottom of the table seven points from safety with a crucial game against Royston this weekend.

L2 2 - Tring 1s 0
(Alfie Gunther)

After previous travelling nightmares and the prospect of facing an unbeaten Tring, Stevenage were understandably a tad apprehensive on Saturday morning. Happily the team arrived without incident and went on to trounce the league leaders by two goals to nil with a comprehensive demonstration of the power of experience over youth.

The young Tring side were immediately under pressure from the outset as Stevenage launched an all out offensive campaign, laying waste to any counter sorties and driving the home side well into their own half. Player of the Match Jo Thorpe played a cracking cat and mouse diversion, mercilessly teasing Tring's defenders into unforced errors and drawing their attention away from the danger that lurked within their circle. Distraction duly set up, Stevenage pounced - Debbi Church chasing a loose ball down in the D, crossing back to a hovering Alfie Gunther who, mindful of her captain's call for total commitment, drove the ball over the line, following it in body surf style just to make sure. Clearly not used to going a goal down, Tring were visibly upset by this blemish on their record and rained a series of counter attacks on their visitors. The Stevenage back line however calmly neutralised the hot headed assailants, Karen Kotze and Riana Smit rebuffing incursions with some devilishly well timed tackles, Liz Gates bulldozing balls back to Julie Rhodes who repeatedly outfoxed Tring, finding Tennille Steiner to whip the ball back up the field. Occasionally Tring did break through but every strike was expertly swatted away by keeper Lisa Pickard who, by the way, bears more than a passing resemblance to GB keeper Beth Storry both in looks and skill.

Stevenage's half time talk concentrated on the need to keep the work rate up - a one goal lead was not enough and defeat could so easily be snatched from the jaws of victory. The red's duly unleashed their secret weapons - 'youngsters' Gemma Penny and Theresa Luciani ran their sub thirty legs off for the entire second half, hunting their respective mark's down and repeatedly turning the ball over. Again Tring became distracted by this diversion, leaving a hole in the middle that Captain Becs McGrellis was all too happy to fill. A couple of practice sorties later McGrellis stormed down the middle again, scattering hapless defenders in her wake before slipping left to Alfie Gunther who secured her 2nd goal and the match.

Saturday 17th November 2012

L2s 0 - Aylesbury 2s 0

Stevenage held this week’s guests Aylesbury 2’s to a goalless draw in a hard fought dog fight from which the home side were unlucky not to emerge victorious.

Whilst the visitors had youth and speed on their side, Stevenage were physically stronger and better disciplined in their game. Indeed, the red rear gunners hardly put a foot or stick wrong for the entire game, conceding just one short corner in 70 minutes. Player of the match Liz “The Stuka” Gates homed in on her prey with deadly accuracy, rarely missing an interception and quite rightly earning a special mention in this despatch. Aylesbury’s saviour was their keeper who, filling the nets more than most, blocked every direct shot on goal. The best chance of scoring was a fast break past a high defence, thereby forcing the keeper off her line and opening up the goal. Sadly for Stevenage, their key striker Alfie Gunther is grounded due to injury and, whilst they were able to catch the visiting defence on the hop, their passing options were limited once in the D. Packing the circle with red attackers and midfield produced some near misses and a few bloody knees due to some over enthusiastic carpet bombing.

Stevenage take a short hop down to Cheshunt next Saturday and hope their striker’s flight status has been re-instated.

M1s 2 - Brentwood 7
(Blackburn, Brown)

Stevenage’s terrible season continued as they travelled under strength to joint league leaders Brentwood on Saturday. The visitors started the better and surprisingly took a early lead when Matt Oliver fired the ball across for Danny Blackburn to fire home with a first time strike which gave the advancing Brentwood keeper no chance at all. This seemed to give confidence to the Stevenage side and they pushed forward trying to extend the lead. Jon Oliver was controlling the midfield with the support of Scott Davies and Gary Brown and with the back up of Paul Graves who was making some invaluable challenges Stevenage were looking good. The game became very open as both sides started to create openings, as expected Brentwood began to get the upper hand and ten minutes before the break they scored two goals in a minute which totally shell shocked the visitors. Oliver’s army had battled hard and now for all their efforts found themselves trailing again in a match. Dan Farnan then broke through after a great pass from James Hamilton but he was unable to beat the Brentwood keeper even though he had Brown open to his left.

Just before the break Brentwood added a third to make it 3-1 at the interval. In the second half Brentwood started to out play Stevenage who had worked so hard in the first half and were showing signs of tiredness. The league leaders had three substitutes to Stevenage’s none and this was really showing. Paul Graves, James Hamilton and Stevie Hamid were making some crucial tackles and when needed keeper Dan Dove did his best to keep the home side at bay. It was inevitable more goals would be conceded by Stevenage and it was soon 4-1 however the goal seemed harsh as in the build up there was clearly a foul on Graves. To the credit of a battered Stevenage they never gave up and Scott Davies almost set up Blackburn with another goal but his effort went wide before Bailey Dingley and Dan Farnan almost combined but to no avail. To make matters worse Gary Brown was harshly sin binned which put his team down to 10 and of course Brentwood capitalised on the advantage of the extra man. It was soon to be 5 then 6-1 as Brentwood continued to punish their opponents. Brown scored to make it 6-2 on his return to the field after a good ball from Jon Oliver but late on Brentwood finished the scoring to make the final score 7-2.

L3s 10 - Luton 3s 1

Stevenage Ladies 3s arrived at Luton in high hopes on Saturday facing the bottom league side, but the first half showed that the Luton youngsters were more than capable of playing good hockey and of scoring against our experienced side. 15 minutes into the game Hannah Wier opened the score line with a great clean shot from the top of the circle which was quickly followed by two quick fire on target shots from Nicki Reynolds, which put the visitors ahead, but then Luton took Stevenage by surprise and broke away and managed to get past the Stevenage defence and startled our tenacious goalie Vicky Myers not long before the half time whistle. With none of the team happy with their current performance and a strong half time talk.

The visitors got it together in the second half, now playing their game and dictating the play, Andrea Weston, Clare Swarbrick, Liz Westcott and Claude Strickland stood fast as our defensive line and distributed the ball straight back out of any danger and the Luton side now very much under pressure from the persistent Stevenage mid-fielders Gemma Roake, Hannah Weir and Leanne Bailey. Forward Emma Cockman scoring early in the first few minutes of the second half rallied the team to push forward, this quickly followed by 2 calmly struck goals from Michelle.

Great patience and determination in getting the ball steadily up the pitch and building the pace gave the left and right forwards Emma Houlihan and Holly O’Connor opportunities to get the ball to Nicki Reynolds in the D, who would one after the other to strike a further 5 goals past the keeper. The team very happy with their 10-1 win and second half performance.

M5 0 - West Herts 6s 7

After last weeks deserved triumph, the 5s struggled this week with an extremely well organised and experienced opposition. Despite some daring attacks and some great individual performances, Stevenage were outclassed and outplayed. The 5s will be enjoying a well-earned break next weekend, before carrying on their struggle from the grasp of the relegation zone.

L1 0 - Old Loughtonians 5

L4 1 - Shefford 4

L5 0 - Berkhamsted 2

M2 lost 7-1 to West Herts the consolation coming from Thomas Woolley

M3 won 4-2 against Letchworth with goals from Ben Oliver (2), Niall Anderson and Ian Jackson

M4 lost 8-4 to Harpenden with Ian Brown scoring 2 of the goals

M6 lost 3-1 to Southgate Adelaide with Lee Cope scoring the goal.

Saturday 10th November 2012

L2 0 - Bedford L3s 2

Stevenage L2s experienced something of a short circuit on Saturday, suffering a 2-0 defeat against a physical Bedford.
Following their fantastic result against league leaders Tring before the half term break, Stevenage knew they would face an equally touch match against Bedford who are ranking high in the league. A delay to the start due to a lack of visiting umpire didn't help the home side who were well warmed up and ready at the appointed push back time and the ten minute wait prompted a somewhat ragged start by the reds.
Individually the home side were the stronger team but were unsettled by the pressure and failed to make the connections that have worked so well in previous games. The visitors capitalised on this lack of composure, taking first blood with a weighty drive which ricocheted off a defender's stick.
The reds were markedly improved in the second half and, had their goal not been disallowed (quite rightly due to a foot in the D) the game may well have had a different outcome. As it was, although Stevenage couldn't have put more effort in, Bedford pulled the plug on any hopes of a fight back, pushing the ball over the line after a scrappy battle in the circle.
Appreciation must be noted for the Stevenage umpires – Roger Hammond for agreeing to start the match as the sole umpire and Roger Barlow who cut his customary pre-match full English routine short to help his fellow Stevenage players out.
The 2s are usually pretty feisty when annoyed and it’s likely that a re-ignited side will let the sparks fly next week against Aylesbury.

M5 2 - Welwyn Garden City 4s 1
(Wells 2)

At last, a much deserved win for the struggling 5s. A hard fought first half ended goalless despite numerous attacks on WGC's goal and the surrounding area.
Early in the second half, Stevenage mixed up it's attacking short-corner routing, captain Dave Wells catching a rebound to slot into the net via a defender's stick. Soon after, Welwyn got lucky, seizing a fumbled ball to level the score. With 10 minutes to go a perfectly executed cross from Aytan Sarisoy was blasted into the roof of the net by Wells. Long awaited and deserved, this is how the 5s can play when properly resourced...

Saturday 3rd November 2012

Stevenage 5s 3-6 Letchworth 4s
(Jones, Woolley T., Court)

An understaffed Stevenage were expecting the customary thrashing from visiting Letcworth, only able to scrape together 10 men. However, on the day quality was more important than quantity, and the 5s had their closest game of the season so far, quickly going ahead 1-0 thanks to a goal from Stuart Jones. Half-time arrived at 1-1, and the depleted Stevenage side were starting to flag, although still dominating play - Tom Woolley scored his first ever penalty flick, and Charlie Court also managed to fight his way round the keeper, but tired legs were showing, and Stevenage were unable to stop Letchworth's opportunist attacks.
A surprisingly good performance, with great potential for when the club gets back up to full strength.

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