Aldershot and Farnham head coach Ian Jennings says his side have room for improvement after their 2-0 win against Blackheath and Elthamians at Heath End on Saturday in hockey’s South East Premier Division.
The Shots moved above Woking and up to fifth place in the table, just two points behind fourth-placed Sevenoaks.
With two games against Woking to complete the season, a fourth-place finish is in Aldershot and Farnham’s hands – but Jennings wasn’t happy with the display against Blackheath and Elthamians.
“I felt we started with all the right intentions but our basics let us down and there were times I wondered if we had ever played hockey before,” said Jennings.
“I felt we were trying to play through the lines much better and showed a greater degree of patience. In the game at their place it was a very tight affair but this was a very convincing victory, even with us not playing as well as we can.
“It was good to see a great crowd supporting us as well, including Sue Morris who is a good friend of mine. The support is always appreciated.”
A&F struggled to settle into the game. They were trying to build attacks from the back, distributing through the lines, but their good build-up play was wasted as poor basics were preventing them from creating any clear-cut chances.
Blackheath too were struggling for any fluidity. Their well-practised patterns were being deployed but it was leaving them with possession in ineffective areas and A&F were dealing with this comfortably, stopping Blackheath creating anything threatening. The sole penalty corner they won was comfortably saved by Hamish Hall.
A&F began to wake up. Passes found their targets more regularly, but the visiting goalkeeper was a match for the hosts. A one-on-one save prevented James Treadgold from marking his return to action with a goal, then the visiting keeper saved well to keep the potent A&F penalty corner routine at bay – saving from both Jamie Weston and Scott Perry as the game stayed goalless until half-time.
A&F continued to build their dominance in the second half. Blackheath attempted to push A&F back, stretching the pitch by throwing three forwards high. This failed to trouble A&F, who remained compact and ramped up the pressure on the opposing centre-back through a high press.
Blackheath were creaking under the pressure as passes went awry and the youthful A&F forward line were reaping the rewards. Paddy Craddon intercepted a loose pass from Blackheath which led to A&F camping in the away side’s 22. With numbers forward, Blackheath couldn’t cope with A&F’s attacking patterns. This let Chris Boot roam free into the D to put the ball on to a defender’s foot and win a penalty corner. Perry stepped up and unleashed a drag flick which deflected off a defender and through the goalkeeper’s legs to give A&F a 1-0 lead.
The goal deflated Blackheath, who began to tire quickly, and A&F were really in the ascendancy, cutting Blackheath open at will. Inviting crosses were not being turned in and when the chances did lead to an effort on goal, they were met by a goalkeeper in inspired form – further saves from Perry and Weston were the pick of the bunch.
Blackheath were then gifted an opportunity to get back into the game as Perry was green carded. A&F calmly managed the two minutes when they were down to ten men and went back on the attack to kill off the game.
Boot and Treadgold were pulling the strings, but Daan Barron was Blackheath’s tormentor in chief. His efforts were rewarded five minutes from time. With numbers forward, A&F flooded into the opposition D and won a penalty corner. The injection was off target, but Barron picked the ball up and drove right, unleashing a strike into the corner to double A&F’s lead and finish off Blackheath.
A&F travel to Goldsworth Park in Woking tonight (Thursday) for an 8pm start, before facing the reverse fixture at Heath End at 10.45am on Saturday.
“It’s not ideal, but I felt it was important to finish the league season in the appropriate time frame,” said Jennings.
“We will be looking to finish strongly and the reality is that winning both games will see us finish fourth, which will be quite frankly outstanding and there needs to be an acknowledgment of a job well done.”