Tunbridge Wells caught on the hop
Vets play some of their best hockey
A cold morning but the frost had gone from the astro after some early sun and then cloud intervening. With 12 players, Valence Vets were able to loan one of their key scorers, Charlie Worsfold, to the Grasshoppers who were one short.
Whilst the opening few minutes of the game looked even, Valence quickly got into their stride and with good linking from backs to midfield to forwards put Andy Barr though to open the scoring on 9 minutes. With solid Valence defence from Sagrott, Britton (keeper), Dow and Nettle and the accurate feeding out of the ball from midfielders Bell, Bardsley and McVarish, the success continued. There was a series of short corners gained from good pressure by the forwards, and though none was converted, there were some close misses from Nigel Bardsley and Andy McVarish.
Grasshoppers raised their game to get more attacks into Valences half and on one of these, loaned forward Charlie Worsfold had a real chance of equalising when a ball into the dee dropped at his feet a metre from goal, but ran through his legs and was quickly cleared. This challenge spurred Valence on and within the next ten minutes or so they got two more open play goals from Mark Whitmill. As half-time approached the action was mainly in Grasshopper’s dee and another shot on goal was blocked by a defender’s leg, leading to a penalty flick being awarded. With no great queue of volunteers, Geoff Bell stepped up and dispatched the ball very cleanly past the keeper.
At half-time the message was to keep up the pressure as any relaxation could let Grasshoppers back into the game, and, if anything the fluidity of Valence’s play improved even further with wingers Mills and Linaker both getting in some good crosses leading to further short corners being won and open play goals from Barr and Whitmill. Julian Mills also scored from one chance close in, whilst Linaker just missed with a couple, but then Mills scored the best goal of the match, a screaming reverse-stick shot from the left-hand edge of the dee, high into the goal.
In the last quarter, Capt Dow, unhappy with the scoring rate, decided to come from defence to improve the result. He picked up at least three good passes and struck the upright with one shot, and was close with the others, but just failed to add more.
This was an excellent result reflecting the effort put in by every team member.
Man of the match: Mark Whitmill
Team: Dave Britton; Geoff Bell; Hamish Dow (Capt); Mike Nettle; Bob Sagrott; Andy McVarish; Nigel Bardsley; Mark Whitmill, Andy Barr; Paul Linaker; Julian Mills; Charlie Worsfold (loaned to opposition).
Umpire: Rupert Humphrey
Next week Sutton Valence Vets are playing Wimbledonians and Purley in a triangular event on grass at Wimbledon at 2.15.