Aldershot & Farnham (A&F) head coach Ian Jennings was pleased with his side’s efforts after they won 3-2 at home to Sevenoaks’ second team in the South East Men’s Premier Division.
The win was the Shots’ third in a row.
“It’s always good to get another three points on the board,” said Jennings.
“When we played them away we were missing some key players. It was good to be able to face them with a full squad – which no doubt caught them off guard.
“When we are playing how we should do, moving the ball swiftly and effectively through the lines, it’s usually only a matter of time before we make the breakthrough. It’s only when I’m witnessing things in games that we definitely know in training would bring on shuttle sprints that it gets a bit nerve-racking.
“Saturday was a mixture of both these things. We started very well by keeping the ball on the ground and genuinely playing some lovely hockey, but for some reason we then changed to an aerial game and kept turning the ball over first phase – putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure.”
Jennings hopes his side can push for a top-three finish.
“We will always do the very best we can,” he said. “It’s in our nature. Things could have been very different and a National League place was very much there for the taking this season. Sadly it’s unlikely this opportunity will present itself again, but we will continue to push as hard as we can.
“If the top teams stumble and we are able to keep our winning streak going, then who knows what the end of the season will look like.”
A&F welcomed Sevenoaks’ second team to Heath End looking not only to avenge the defeat in the reverse fixture, but also to leapfrog their visitors in the league table.
With a full squad at their disposal, A&F started strongly – setting the press effectively to force Sevenoaks into early mistakes. This led to multiple turnovers to A&F, especially in midfield.
It was exactly the start A&F had wanted, as their work rate and structure seemed to catch their opponents off guard. The introduction of Terry Boot into the back line also meant that A&F had an extra dimension when outletting from the back, as he was able to thread long passes through the Sevenoaks press as well as work with the back five to pass out from the back.
But it was one of the longer passes that kicked A&F off.
Boot found Scott Perry in space on the left as Sevenoaks’ press again faltered. Perry’s driving run created space for Daan Barron. Barron was swarmed by defenders, but wriggled his way through numerous tackles and into the D where he rifled his shot low past the opposition goalkeeper and into the corner of the goal to give A&F a 1-0 lead.
Sevenoaks couldn’t get going. A straight yellow for a poor tackle didn’t help their cause. A&F continued to assert dominance and Stu Morhall had joined Perry in finding joy down the flanks.
He made multiple entries into the Sevenoaks D, but he struggled to find anyone willing to tap in his pull backs.
When Morhall did finally connect with Barron, the shot flew past the post.
Then, having dealt admirably with a rare Sevenoaks attack, Boot again launched a quick counter, this time finding Joe Whelan on the halfway line. Whelan’s touch took him past the defender and into open space.
Whelan took advantage of a slip from a visiting defender and drove into the D. Jonny Groves, meanwhile, had made a darting run to the back post.
The goalkeeper, more worried about Groves, gambled and stepped off his line to prevent the pass, but only succeeded in giving Whelan a free shot at an open goal, which he happily accepted to double A&F’s lead at 2-0.
Having dominated the opening 20 minutes, A&F then took their foot off the gas. They too often reverted to going route one and were made to do lots of work up and down as the ball bounced between the two midfields. This let Sevenoaks back into the game and A&F were soon punished for their sloppiness. Sevenoaks, aided by a penalty corner award for a foul just outside the A&F D, converted at the first attempt as A&F’s shaky penalty-corner defence again succumbed to a deflection from the runners as Sevenoaks halved the deficit.
With half-time approaching, A&F held on defensively.
At the other end, Perry nearly gave them something to build on going into half-time, but having weaved his way into the D, his lifted effort cannoned off the post and away to safety.
A&F couldn’t build on their lead at start of the second half. They couldn’t find a way to kick-start their play and were playing into Sevenoaks’ hands by giving the ball away cheaply. In the end the equaliser came as no surprise.
A&F had done well to win the ball, but failed to clear effectively and Sevenoaks came back at them with interest. The route to goal was scrappy, as the ball bobbled around off numerous offensive and defensive sticks, but the Sevenoaks forward line eventually found their composure to connect on a two against one on Hamish Hall in A&F’s goal to give an easy tap in for 2-2.
By now, tempers were fraying at some of the umpiring decisions. Sevenoaks were warned multiple times by the umpires to tone down their dissent but carried on regardless. While Sevenoaks were riled up, A&F remained comparatively calm and slowly retook the impetus in the game.
With their meandering style restored, A&F were pushing for the winner.
They were earning penalty corners, but Sevenoaks were matching them defensively to cling on to the draw.
With little time left, A&F got another penalty corner.
Sevenoaks lost a player to the sin bin for dissent and although the makeshift defensive unit kept out the first strike, the rebound fell to Perry who lashed the ball into the net to make it 3-2 to A&F.
Despite a late card for Morhall for kicking the ball away as A&F were scrambling to defend, the home side held on to complete their third late win in as many weeks.