SATURDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2010

Stevenage L1     1      Upminster L1     1

Stevenage Ladies finished pre-season preparation by hosting opposition from the league above them and achieving a good result. Lucy Harvey opened their account with a brilliant strike set up by Kate Murray in the first half, and the game turned into a defensive struggle in the second. The visitors did manage to grab the equaliser they probably deserved despite an outstanding rearguard from the home side and some excellent saves from keeper Jenny Harding in particular. Stevenage open their league season next week with a visit to Harpenden and new skipper Rachel Jeffrey is confident, especially with  new players Kate Murray, Natalie Smith and Alison Jeffrey all playing well and fitting in nicely.

Stevenage M1     2     Waltham Forest M1    3


Stevenage Men also entertained opposition from a higher league in a pre-season friendly but without such a good result. The home side led 1-0 at half time courtesy of a trademark Danny Blackburn sharp finish after good work from Mike Oliver and John Mould. The lion’s share of possession was held by Waltham Forest who were thwarted several times by Tim Dingley in fine form between the posts before their superiority showed in the second half as they scored three times in quick succession. Gary Brown halved the deficit late, following up Danny's saved effort with a neat finish, but both sides could have scored several more. The men start their league season on 25 September.
 

Stevenage M2    2     Broxbourne M3    4

This pre-season friendly started quickly with end to end hockey but Stevenage, without skipper James Hamilton for a few weeks, showed little organisation in defence. Broxbourne exposed the gaps and were rewarded with an early penalty corner which they converted. Pressure on the home side continued but by now they were defending stoutly. Geoff Trew intercepted a Broxbourne pass and was given the space to run and score with a strike from the top of the circle, but the visitors regained the lead half time. The second half was more even with both teams having good attacks but the defences holding on until the visitors extended their lead. Stevenage countered with some nice passing play before the ball fell to Danny Farnan with his back to goal. He scored well on the turn to set up a come-back but it was Broxbourne who grabbed the final goal.

 Blueharts M4      3    Stevenage M3       7

Fielding a much younger team than last term Stevenage M3 were comfortable winners in their first pre-season game in Hitchin. The scorers were all veterans - Roger Barlow (3), Khalid Mehmood (2), Ian Wilcock and Seb Rose - but the stars were youngsters Stevie Hamid, Tom Woolley and Chris Hall - and new keeper Damion with a fine double save.

 

SATURDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2010

Harpenden L1      1      Stevenage L1        2

Rachel's team opened their league season with a good away win despite starting slowly and conceding an early goal after a quick break by the home side. The half time advice of team manager Digger Graves was key to a fighting comeback and Natalie Smith swept the ball into the net off the keepers pads to level the scores. The visitors were now attacking well and player of the match Kate Murray missed narrowly after a fine run. A decisive goal looked likely for the away side and it was Lucy Harvey who scored it with a thunderous shot from the top of circle set up by Jude Weston from a penalty corner. It was now time for the Stevenage defence to play their part and they were able to deny Harpenden a way back into the game.

Stevenage  L4      1   Saffron Walden L4    4     

Roz Fewell scored for Emma's team.

St Neots M1        1    Stevenage M1     6

A comfortable win for the newly promoted side in the final match before the league campaign and business as usual for Danny Blackburn – five more goals for the striker. After only 17 seconds Jon Oliver found Blackburn in space to calmly slot past the advancing keeper and the pressure continued with chances falling to Gary Brown, Mitchell Snares and Graham Swinyard.  Captain John Mould doubled the lead by hitting the roof of the net with a powerful drag flick and a good run from Andy Blaxill produced a third goal when his pin point cross allowed Blackburn to lob the oncoming keeper to make it 3-0. 

Debutant Michael Van Roojgen was causing plenty of problems for the Saints defence but  it was a good through ball from Brown which set up  Mould to  unselfishly play Blackburn in for his hat-trick before the home side pulled a goal back and then forced keeper Tim Dingley into a couple of good saves. Van Roojgen set up Blackburn for the 5th and Jon Oliver came close to another goal before halftime.

The second half followed the same pattern with the home keeper outstanding with a double save from Brown then Blackburn. It was eventually six when the Saints sweeper was dispossessed by Blackburn to fire home.  

Skipper Mould will take encouragement from not only the result but also the style with which his side played, and with other players returning next weekend faces the season with some optimism.

Stevenage M2      1      Harlow M1      5

Skipper James Hamilton, absent from this final warm up game, was given little encouragement by a comprehensive home defeat but his team contributed more to this game than the score-line suggests. The teams changed ends with the home side three goals behind thanks to two crucial errors and a decisive piece of skill from the visitors, but it had otherwise been a even half with chances at both ends. Stevenage opened brightly in the second and Ollie Holt scored from a tight angle after a great run to give them hope, but Harlow scored twice more, both on the break, to give the youngsters in the home side a valuable lesson in how to win matches.

 Stevenage M3     3       Cambridge City M5     5

Despite a Nick Crocker hat-trick, all scored from penalty corners, the home side came off second best in a very open entertaining pre-season friendly in which youngster Chris Hall, playing only his second game at this level, was outstanding.

Stevenage M4     0       MBDA   2

Hit by a shortage of players Si Russell's lads conceded a goal in each half as Brownie and the skipper missed good chances. Youngsters Bailey Dingley, Harry Wheeler and Sam Hobbs all played well.

SATURDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 2010

Witham M1     0    Stevenage M1     5

Newly promoted Stevenage opened their league campaign a convincing 5-0 win at Witham; although the home side started well and had most of the possession they created few chances. Skipper John Mould set his formation for a counter attack style of play, breaking at pace, and the plan worked well.

Witham had a good opportunity to go ahead on ten minutes however and keeper Tim Dingley, on his way to a rare clean sheet, made a fine save. The visitors then created chances on the break, with both Blackburn and Oliver seeing shots well saved by the home keeper, before they took the lead when Ben Oliver crossed for Gary Brown to fire home.

Stevenage then won a series of penalty corners: first John Mould saw his drag flick hit the bar before Andy Blaxill forced the keeper in to a terrific save. Dutchman Michael Van Roojgen was causing problems with some amazing aerial passes for Blackburn, Brown and the Olivers to chase. One of these lead to a penalty corner from which Stevenage would extend their lead - Blaxill's fearsome strike rebounded to Danny Blackburn who flicked the ball home. Witham still had most the possession and late in the half forced good saves from Dingley and a goalline clearance from Chris Nichol.

Witham pushed forward for a goal early in the second half and this was ideal for Stevenage's counter attacking plans. Graham Swinyard intercepted a wayward pass in midfield and put Matt Oliver through and his effort was parried away by the Witham keeper. Then it was Mike Oliver's turn to get on the scoresheet when after good harassment from the forward line Oliver pounced on a defensive error to make it 3-0.

To their credit Witham were still passing well in what by now was a very open game, and won a series of penalty corners which were defended brilliantly by Matt Oliver, Blaxill, Nichol and Mould, before a fine individual effort by Ben Oliver ended when he roofed the net from the edge of the area to make it 4-0.

Witham's possession probably deserved a goal but the visitors were resilient and held every attack at bay.  It was now end to end stuff in a contest that was pretty much over even before Swinyard found Van Roojgen who went round a defender to complete the scoring for the afternoon.

Skipper John Mould couldn't have had a better start to this campaign and next week Stevenage entertain their fellow promoted side Bedford at Nobel in what will be a much tougher game.

Stevenage M2     3   Harpenden M3      4

M2 started their league season with a fast, hard game against Harpenden 3s and took the early advantage with a well timed shot from Olly Holt, after some good build up play.  Despite the home side having the lion's share of the pressure, Harpenden achieved a penalty corner after a ball ricocheted up off captain James Hamilton's stick.  This was charged down, again by the skipper, but the resulting play led to another short, which the visitors hit home. 

Unpeturbed by this, Stevenage again went on the attack and penalty corner worked well by Ryall Swartz and John Oliver led to an Olly Holt drag flick into the mid-right of the goal.  2-1 and Stevenage sensed a win was on the cards.  Unfortunately fate wasn't going to allow it all Stevenage's way and they lost Geoff Trew when he was hit under the eye by the ball.  Harpenden took advantage, converting another short corner to make it 2-2 before the break.

The third Harpenden goal could have completely sunk Stevenage but some good build up play at the other end made sure the Reds had the bit back between the teeth.  A  good Callum Mathews cross into the opposition circle allowed Niall Anderson to pounce for an equaliser.  A tight finish saw Harpenden nick a goal, ending the hopes of the home side getting even a point out of a thrilling encounter. 

Could it be a Stevenage/Harpenden 1-2 at the end of the season?  21 games will tell.

Winchmore Hill & Enfield M2     3       Stevenage M3      6
 
A disciplined team performance enabled newly promoted Stevenage to record an opening day away win after taking an early lead with a short corner converted by Nick Crocker, followed up quickly with a goal from Harp Mann. In contrast lack of discipline from the home team caused them go down we down to 10 men and the visitors took full advanagte with Mann’s second of the day just before half time.

The team started off the second half in the same vein with Nick Crocker scoring from another penalty corner but the home side rallied and put Stevenage under pressure, pulling a goal back. However a brace from Khalid Mehmood put the result beyond doubt taking the score to 6-1. The home side finished stronger with 2 consolation goals to give a final scoreline which flattered them slightly.
 
Stevenage M4     3     Broxbourne M5     1
 
Having gone a goal behind the home side produced a great team performance to open the season with maximum points. Kevin Fisher equalised before half-time, and Bailey Dingley and Ian Brown added goals after the break
 
Bedford M5      3     Stevenage M5    1
 

The 5’s played magnificently on Saturday, despite being a man down and no subs, against a reasonably good Bedford side – the result is probably an unfair representation of a game where we had most of the possession and plenty of opportunities which we just couldn’t quite capitalise on, including a disallowed goal. I was very impressed by the three new lads (who had never played a match before) who we played up front; what they lacked in stick skills they made up with positioning and assertiveness (it was Mayson Tewkesbury who scored, although the other two came frustratingly close on several occasions) – given a few weeks training and I think they’ll go far.

Disappointing that the score wasn’t the reverse, but a great start given the constraints, and this week we should find it easier to fill the team (if we don’t lose too many players…).

Stevenage M6      0     Bedford Vets       12

Dave Wooley's first game in charge of any team saw him match an inexperienced group who had never played together against a very experienced team that clearly had, with quite predictable consequences. Bags of promise, loads of heart and plenty for The Big Bopper to work on whatever impression the scoresheet might give.

Blueharts L1      2      Stevenage L1    0

In their second league game of the season, Stevenage Ladies came out strong with good possession in the first half. Despite this, Stevenage weren’t quick enough to defend a lucky break from Bluehart’s attack, as they scored an important early first goal.

Stevenage fought back with steady breaks led by Carly Seaton and Jude Weston, but despite attempts from Lucy Harvey and Kate Murray,  failed to score.

During the second half, Blueharts continued to attack well as Stevenage began to dwindle.  Then an unlucky attempt from Stevenage to defend a high ball from the top of the circle gave Blueharts a decisive second goal.   

 

Stevenage L2      2     Luton L2       0    

 

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