Aldershot & Farnham (A&F) head coach Ian Jennings sees plenty of room for improvement after his side started their South East Men’s Premier Division campaign with an emphatic 5-0 victory against Horsham.
“It’s certainly a good start – especially as we lost both times to Horsham last season – and it’s always satisfying to score five with nothing going in the other end,” said Jennings. “However, we turned the ball over way too easily and were not as clinical as I would expect us to be at this stage.
“You have to be up and running come the start of the season and I don’t feel we are there yet.
“It’s been a very difficult and frustrating summer to be honest, and going into our first game having had only one arranged pre-season match certainly didn’t help our cause.
“Fortunately we were able to play a couple of training matches midweek but we certainly looked match rusty, and a couple of games short of where we need to be.”
Horsham made much of the early running as A&F struggled to settle into the game.
It was more early-season rust than Horsham’s half-court press that was causing the issues for the home side, but they stood strong defensively and got through the opening exchanges unscathed.
Once they had settled, A&F controlled much of the first half. The free-flowing hockey of the previous season returned in force and Horsham were having to do lots of leg work to keep pace.
Penalty corners started to come for A&F, but the sticky pitch meant the injections were poor and missed their mark. A&F’s strong penalty corner routine finally broke the deadlock, as Scott Perry opened his account for the season with a drag flick.
A&F kicked on and a flowing move from left to right deep in Horsham territory allowed A&F into the Horsham D. A cross to the back post found Jonny Groves, who bundled the ball home to make it 2-0.
A&F had been in this position before against Horsham and managed to lose the game, so remained wary of letting the position slip again. But they were very nearly creators of their own downfall as loose play allowed Horsham to launch counter attacks.
Eventually, Horsham capitalised and were awarded a penalty stroke following a tangle of legs in A&F’s D. A short deliberation between umpires confirmed the decision.
It was then left to Hamish Hall to get the slightest of touches on the stroke to help the ball on to the post and out, maintaining the clean sheet and two-goal lead at the break.
With Horsham getting more and more desperate and frantic after the half-time interval, cards started to come out.
Daan Barron was shown a green for knocking the ball away after Horsham had been awarded a free hit, but other than that, A&F’s discipline held. Horsham, on the other hand, spent periods with ten men as their discipline faltered. A&F took advantage of this and some quick thinking from Perry allowed him to take a free hit quickly and weave his way into the opposition D. His effort on goal was deflected but a goalkeeping howler meant the shot lobbed in for Perry’s second and A&F’s third.
In response, Horsham changed their shape to try to put more pressure on the A&F backline, but Tom Herring was able to find holes in the press and was instrumental in setting up goals four and five.
Long balls out from the back found the A&F midfield in acres of space as fatigue set in for the visitors – who could no longer keep up with the home side’s relentless work.
Good work down the right and a pullback to the far post found the returning Joe Wheelan who was happy to steer the ball into an empty net for 4-0. The scoring was concluded by Groves – a similar move found him unmarked at the back post to bundle in his second.
Despite sloppiness and complacency setting in for the hosts and allowing Horsham some late chances, the clean sheet was maintained and A&F came away 5-0 winners.