Saturday 6 October 2012

M1 2 (Delaune, Brown) - Witham 4

Stevenage who are bottom of division 2 were hoping to get their season going against Witham on Saturday. The home side started the better and things were looking good for Jon Oliver’s men when Swinyard won a short corner early on. Gary Brown saw his corner strike saved by the keeper before vice skipper Ben Delaune fired home the rebound to give Stevenage their first lead of the season.

Witham had no time to regroup before Stevenage added a second thanks to Gary Brown who finished a good move which had started from Richard Hamilton’s link up play with Matt Oliver.

Stevenage were starting to play with confidence and the two goal advantage gave the side some belief which was very evident. They almost added a third when James Hamilton crossed the ball across the face of goal for Farnan and Dingley, however both were unable to deflect the ball home.

The game seemed to be going the home sides way when some indecisiveness in midfield gifted Witham the ball and after some well worked passes the visitors got a goal back. A nervousness then hit the ranks of the Stevenage side and passes and challenges got sloppy which Witham picked up on. Witham started to take control and just before the break added a second goal to equalise from a penalty corner.

In the second half both sides attacked to try and gain the advantage, Ben Delaune was yellow carded after a rash challenge which resulted in a ten minute sin-bin before Witham took a 3-2 lead from a fast flowing counter attack which totally blew Stevenage away. Witham were on the upper foot and if it hadn’t been for some fine challenges from the likes of Roger Barlow and Paul Graves the home side could have been already out of the game. Dingley made a good stop from a penalty corner before Stevie Hamid was then sin binned for a reckless stick tackle. The home sides discipline had gone and Witham were cutting through the home side like a knife through butter. After such a promising start the end result was looking familiar to the previous few weeks. Late on another Witham attack resulted in a fourth goal with a classy reverse stick hit which flew in the roof of the net past a helpless Dingley. At 4-2 the game was lost and when the final whistle blew a few Stevenage players were left asking serious questions. Skipper Oliver still remains upbeat that things will turn around and has a few players still to return. This result leave Stevenage rooted to the bottom of the league.


Stevenage Ladies – 1 (Ayles)  Letchworth Ladies – 6

Stevenage hoped to continue their success from the two previous weeks games as they met newly demoted letchworth .
Both teams started strong with play going end to end until letchworth settled into their game and applied the pressure. Stevenage did well to fight off an ever pressing letchworth side but at early short corner decision allowed letchworth to open the score sheet by slotting home their first effort.
Stevenage responded by upping the tempo and split letchworths defence to gain a short corner. The first strong strike by Nat Davis was deflected by the keeper straight into the path of Caz Ayles who reverse swept it comfortably past the keeper.
Both teams created numerous chances with Stevenage keeper and man of match Nat Leach keeping stevenage fully in the game. The forwards created a string of unsuccessful short corners but it was letchworth who managed to put another goal away before the first half whistle.
Injuries, fatigue and absent key players was a huge part in Stevenage's struggles in the second half. Relentless pressure from letchworth saw Stevenage fight a good fight but unfortunately couldn't keep the goals out seeing the game finish at 6-1 to letchworth.


L2 0 - St. Albans 3s 2

Despite being dogged by traffic problems for a second week running, Stevenage 2's managed to field 11 for the start of their match against St. Alban's at their beautiful, albeit rather bouncy, new pitch.
A couple of key players were missing from the line up and though Stevenage are struggling to settle with an ever changing team, the match was a lot tighter than last week. St. Albans were the better drilled squad, capitalising on some excellent short passing routines through the midfield, however they struggled to break through the Stevenage defence who only conceded a single goal in the first half.
A second half change in formation to strengthen the red's midfield was a clever decision by the captain and resulted in many more opportunities to level the score. St. Albans keeper was kept very busy, pulling off an near impossible save to deny Alfie Gunther from levelling the score and then putting in a sprint start Mr. Bolt would be proud of to beat Captain McGrellis to a loose ball. The home team secured their win from a break against the run of play and a lucky bounce past the final defender. Some work to be done but a much improved performance which the reds should take heart from.

After three weeks away, the 2's look forward to a home fixture next week.

Other results :

Men 2nds lost 6-2 to West Herts 3rds goals from Chris Watson and Tom Woolley
Mens 3rds won 4-2 at Luton Town Goals from Nick Russell,Josh Poulten, Ian Wilcock and Ryall Schwartz
Mens 4’s won 3-1 against  Broxbourne4’s goals from Ian Jackson, Khalid Mehmood,Steve Scholes
Ladies 3’s won 4-0 against Hertford 2’s with goals from Rhiana Smit,Hannah Weir,Nicki Reynolds and Amanda Lawrence
Ladies 4’s lost 2-0 to St Albans

Saturday 13 October 2012

L2 4 - Bishops Stortford 3s 2

A good breakfast, thorough warm up and a rousing pre-match captain’s team talk - Stevenage were in a feisty mood and determined to kick their previous two losses out of the park in what proved to be a six goal thriller on Saturday against Bishops Stortford 3’s.
That Stortford opened the scoring with a great short corner routine was a slight set back but the reds, armed with four gutsy South Africans on the team were soon back in the fray. Karen Kotze in particular proved deadly, stopping the visitors in their tracks with more stinging jabs than you see in a doctor’s surgery on flu injection day.
Short corners were to feature in all but one of the 6 goals and Stevenage had an answer for their opponents with a master class in international collaboration. Injection from South Africa (Alfie Gunther), trapped by GB (Jo Thorpe), slip to SA Julie Rhodes whose exocet to the right hand post was calmly tipped in by cool Brit Gemma Penny.
The second half started all square with the visitors constantly under siege as a wave of red washed them firmly back into the their own half. Incursions from midfielder's Riana Smit and Tennille Steiner were picking holes in Stortford’s increasingly sieve like defence, it wasn't long before a defender’s foot was found to earn a short corner. Goal number two for Stevenage came from a tried and tested ‘keep it simple stupid’ approach – a perfectly weighted injection from Captain Becs McGrellis set Debbi Church up for a sweet drive inside the right hand post and the reds were ahead.
Over confidence can prove to be the downfall of a team and the home side suffered a sharp reminder when they pressed a little too high. A break caught the reds on the hop and Stortford levelled the score once again. As the clock started ticking down, passionate displays from both sides resulted in the green cards being dug out from the umpire’s pockets. Stevenage were able to settle back into the work and Jan Gibson and Claire Breen were soon back to distributing the ball out from defence with calm confidence.
The tide turned when top of the pot shots Gemma Penny slipped a cheeky one past Stortford’s keeper following a trade mark blast into the D from Jo Thorpe and cross court volley courtesy of Becs McGrellis. Church failed to wrap the game up with a flick awarded after her blistering short corner shot was blocked by a defenders foot, but redeemed herself when shortly after she and Becs McGrellis reprised their earlier short corner routine, this time out foxing the defence with a shot down the left hand side board.
A glorious battle won by a gutsy determined team tested by equally worthy opponents, the return match should prove interesting!

M1 0  - West Herts 2s 5

Stevenage continued their poor start to the season away at West herts 2’s on Saturday with a 5-0 defeat.
Jon Oliver’s men were missing seven squad members for the trip to Watford giving a debut to Scott Davies and recalling veteran Chris Strickland to the side. In the early stages of the game few opportunities fell to either side with Stevenage playing quite deep trying to keep the Herts side out.
The first scare came when a quick counter caught Stevenage off guard leaving five West Herts players against three away defenders, luckily for Stevenage on this occasion a shot went harmlessly wide.  Gary Brown and Ollie Holt combined well to almost put skipper Oliver through but the home sweeper cleaned up any threat with a timely interception.  Gary Brown was cautioned harshly for a tangle with an opponent before Blackburn almost scored but his shot unfortunately hit a Hert’s defender in the mouth to win a penalty corner which Brown hit just wide.  West Herts took the lead when a Stevenage attack broke down, a swift passing move which tore the visitors apart was finally flicked home over a sprawling Dingley who was unable to stop the effort.
Scott Davies then linked up well with Matt Oliver whose cross was almost nipped in by Dan Farnan but the young forward was not quite able to hit the target.  West Herts then  had a period of dominance which put the defence of Strickland, James Hamilton and Stevie Hamid under immense pressure. On one occasion as Herts broke Stevie Hamid fouled the forward and was sin-binned for the second week in a row leaving his side really up against it.  It was soon 2-0 when another quick passing move was finished in style by the home centre half with a stunning strike which flew past Dingley.  To Stevenage’s credit they kept trying to create opportunities and young Bailey Dingley almost got a goal back with a nice shot which just went wide off the post.  Ollie Holt and Jon Oliver were battling hard in the midfield but the Herts side worked tireless and never let Stevenage settle.
After a harsh green card Gary Brown then was sin-binned for a fifty fifty challenge which again looked to be the wrong decision, things just were not going the away teams way and they were greatful when the half time whistle blew.
The second half got off to a explosive start with tackles flying in and both sides attacking looking for what would be the crucial third goal of the match. In the end West Herts netted the third after a mix up in the away area the ball came loose after a decent save from Dingley, Stevenage were unable to clear their lines and the incoming midfielder slotted home to make it 3-0.  Stevenage looked deflated and even a couple of goals or opportunities would have lifted the side.  Stevie Hamid then sent a long pass to Danny Blackburn who after losing his man only had the keeper to beat, however his effort was well saved to his obvious frustration.  James Hamilton and Chris Strickland were doing brilliantly to keep the score down with crucial challenges, and with the assistance of Hamid and Matt Oliver it looked like the score could be kept to just three! Famous last words as West Herts were then awarded a penalty flick for an illegal foot on the goal line – however the flick was the perfect height for Dingley to calmly palm away with ease. Off the hook it seemed until two minutes later when after a barrage of shots on the visitors goal was rewarded with a fourth goal from an impressive Herts side. A fifth wasn’t long coming when after a great goal line clearance from James Hamilton was hit to what looked like safety a West Herts winger picked up the ball wide ghosted past three defenders before flicking the ball with tremendous power past the oncoming Dingley in  to the net to make it 5-0 with what was the goal of the game! Jon Oliver rallied his troops to push for a consolation but to no avail making the final score 5-0 and leaving Stevenage without a point this campaign and rooted to the foot of the table. Next week Stevenage face high flyers Upminster in a must win match at home.

M5 0 - Southgate Adelaide 3

A tough fixture at home against a very physical and experienced side - with yet another significantly rearranged line-up, this was always going to be a difficult game for the inexperienced Stevenage team. Despite having the odds so heavily stacked against them, the home side managed to contain the half-time score to 0-1, and in the second half controlled much of the action, Southgate getting lucky on two occasions with surprise goals. Some impressive performances from some very young as well as not-so-young players, who will be looking for a more genteel game next week.

Sunday 21 October 2012

EHA Trophy game against Ipswich - East Suffolk
M1 0 - IESHC 4

On Sunday the Stevenage men travelled to Ipswich to play in the hockey national trophy. Jon Oliver took an under strength side due to availability issues. He gave debuts to Stuart Jones, Martyn Binge and veteran Tony Farnan who all gave solid performances. The visitors lost 4-0 but gave a good account of themselves considering.

Saturday 20 October 2012

M1 3 - Upminster 2

Stevenage’s start to this season has been disappointing to say the least with five defeats to their name, so the visit of league leaders Upminster on Saturday was not one that Jon Oliver’s men would savour.
The way the home side set up for the game was more attacking than in previous weeks with Oliver welcoming back brother Ben to the forward line in the hope of reigniting the season.  From the start as expected Upminster, who were undefeated, pressurised the Stevenage back line and tried to force them in to making errors.  The defence who had been leaking goals in recent weeks resisted well and calmly played themselves out of danger on several occasions. Paul Graves and Chris Strickland marshalled the back with the help of James Hamilton and Matt Oliver and if it hadn’t been for their early discipline, the home side may well have been behind. As Upminster were creating their chances the Stevenage side also created their own and should have maybe taken the lead when Matt Oliver fired a ball across too early for Bailey Dingley and Scott Davis to convert.
After quite an even first quarter Upminster then broke at pace and after a good reaction save from keeper Tim Dingley an unmarked forward fired home to give the league leaders the advantage. At 1-0 there was always the danger Stevenage would fall apart like in previous weeks, however Jon Oliver got the troops moving and through his inspiration and control in midfield started to create a few opportunities, with impressive through balls and passing to the likes of Gary Brown and Graham Swinyard. On one occasion he set off Ben Oliver who looked to be rekindling his partnership of years gone by with Danny Blackburn again as they combined to force the away keeper in to a great save.
After both sides had tested the respective keepers Upminster stunned Stevenage with a second goal which seemed harsh on the home side. The half was coming to a close when Bailey Dingley and Dan Farnan won a free hit after a good move was illegally stopped.  From the resulting hit in Blackburn won a scrappy ball in the area and crossed for Ben Delaune to fire home and give Stevenage a lifeline.
The second half started in a fiery environment with challenges flying in and exchanges becoming heated. Upminster saw a player sin-binned before Stevenage lost Ben Oliver and Gary Brown also to yellow cards, Blackburn with a trademark challenge was also cautioned amongst others from both sides.
When the game started to settle Upminster almost went 3-1 up but a great save from Dingley and then a goal line clearance from Graves kept them at bay. When the sides were back to eleven each the game opened up and chances were falling to both sides again, Ben Oliver put Blackburn through but his effort was saved before Jon Oliver’s effort hit the post and Swinyard was just unable to deflect the rebound home!
Stevenage were equal to Upminster and were playing their best hockey of the season and sensing a possible equaliser. Short corners were being won and on two occasions Graves and Brown had come close to drawing the sides level.  On 60 minutes Dan Farnan won a short corner, from the resulting hit out Gary Brown slipped the ball to Danny Blackburn who drag flicked the ball in to the roof of the net to equalise to his delight and that of Oliver’s army!  Stevenage had the upper hand as Upminster looked stunned,  Scott Davis , Graham Swinyard , De Laune and Oliver started to boss the midfield with the back up of Strickland and Hamilton playing as wing backs to support and over lap. Chances were falling to Stevenage who desperately needed that first win and their confidence was growing. They almost got a goal when Ben Oliver flicked just wide after a good ball from brother Matt. Then it was Upminster’s turn as they pushed for the winner they felt they deserved and forced Dingley in to some fine stops and anything he didn’t get to was securely dealt with by Paul Graves and the help of James Hamilton and Chris Strickland.
The game was heading for a draw which Stevenage would have taken at the start of play – when Jon Oliver won a short corner after combining well with the youngsters Farnan and Dingley. From the corner with the last hit of the game Gary Brown fired home a thunderbolt which gave the away keeper no chance and Stevenage their first points of the season against the league leaders.

L2 6 – Vauxhall Chiltern 1s 0

Fresh from their first league victory the previous week, Stevenage were determined to maintain momentum and didn’t disappoint the home crowd, giving Vauxhall Chiltern 1s six of the best.
Whilst the first goal was a traditional forward line routine – Debbi Church collected a lovely feed from Riana Smit, dummied left past a sliding keeper and a quick reverse slip to a predatory Alfie Gunther, Chiltern were completely unsettled for the rest of the match as it seemed any red outfield player was capable of scoring.
Not to be outdone by the forwards, defender Julie Rhodes stepped forward for a penalty flick awarded after some overly exuberant short corner breaking by the visitors. Cool as a cucumber, Player of the Match Rhodes popped a nonchalant ball to the right of the stretching keeper to put the reds two ahead at half time.
Chiltern attempted a fight back in the second half, holding Stevenage in their own half and applying some pressure with a succession of short corners. Whilst the red defence had no problem keeping the ball out of the net they were struggling to clear it out. After ten minutes however, Stevenage tired of teasing their opponents and went back on the offensive, third goal honours coming from a short corner rebound popped over a prone keeper by mid fielder Riana Smit. Goal number four came courtesy of this season’s new rule that a ball no longer needs to be touched by an attacker in the D to count as a goal. Defender Karen Kotze thundered the ball into the circle which ping ponged into the back board off a defender’s stick.
The visitors were visibly wilting as Stevenage piled on the pressure, Jo Thorpe putting in a stonking cross from the left for Captain Bec McGrellis to send home and with 2 minutes left on the clock there was time for one more – Debbi Church felt like a kid in a sweetshop as she ran the ball into the D to find her captain providing an option on the left and Gemma Penny to the right. Church chose left, the keeper froze and McGrellis took the tally to six.
After back to back home games, the reds are off to Tring next Saturday hoping the travel angels are on their side.

M5 0 - Royston 4s 7

Another tricky fixture for the troubled Stevenage side. A very well organised Royston scored within the first minute of play, followed by a further four goals before half-time. After some structural changes during the break, the visiting side looked more dangerous, only conceding a further two goals, and taking a more attacking shape, albeit with little finishing success. Out-classed by Royston's organisational skills, Stevenage will need to shape up and regain their ball-skills if looking for their first win of the season. Hats off to stand-in keeper Martyn Binge, who made some impressive saves despite no training as a keeper whatsoever...

M2 1 - Royston 2s 3 (Ollie Holt)
M3 2 - Potters Bar 2s 5 ( Roger Barlow 2)
M4 1 - Blueharts 5s 2 (Dan Davies)
M6 0 - Letchworth 6s 2

L1 2 - Potters Bar 4 ( Nat Davis 2 )
L3 1 - Vauxhall 2s 1 ( Holly O’Connor)
L4 0 - Saffron Walden 7
L5 2 - Hertford 4s 1 ( Helena Page 2 )

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