Vets hold-up Blackheath Highwaymen
By Paul Linaker
Valence show steel to draw a tough game
On a cold gloomy day, Sutton Valence Vets played host to a Blackheath team for the first time for many years. The Clubs had had difficulty trying to arrange fixtures because of Blackheath’s decision to commit to League hockey some years ago. They are currently top of Kent Open Division 2.
The visitors showed early in the game that the weekly experience of playing League hockey created a sharp and competitive team, and Valence realised that the game was going to be far from easy. Blackheath proved effective at maintaining possession and applying sustained pressure on the Valence defence, which managed to cope in these early minutes. Despite Blackheath’s early dominance, it was Valence, rather against the run of play, who opened the scoring, with a brilliant solo goal from Bob Bartlett after 13 minutes. This raised Valence’s spirits and affected Blackheath’s confidence and the subsequent play became more even.
However, about 10 minutes later, Blackheath benefitted from a piece of luck. A pass, struck from midfield, was unfortunately deflected by a Valence defender through a cluster of players to land at the feet of an unmarked Blackheath forward in the dee. He took advantage of his good fortune and efficiently put it past keeper Dave Britton to bring the score level at 1-1.
The remaining play in the first half was pretty even, though Blackheath always looked the more dangerous going forward, particularly down the left.
In the second half, Valence played four across the back, which proved effective, as it happened, in keeping Blackheath out. Whilst there was no further score from either team, the Highwaymen developed their attacks more positively, with some accurate short passing, maintaining better control and had several chances which they squandered. Sutton Valence continued to defend stoutly and to produce breakaway movements which tended to fail too many times through inaccurate or over-optimistic long passing, and as a result had rather fewer opportunities.
By the end, the judgement was that all Valence’s defenders had played well, particularly attacker turned defender, Stuart Bates, but that the team were a little lucky to get away with a draw.
MOM – Stuart Bates
Goal scorer: Bob Bartlett
Team: Dave Britton, Andy McVarish, Hamish Dow, Julian Mills, Paul Linaker, Charles Worsfold, Nigel Bardsley, Bob Bartlett, Rupert Humphrey, Stuart Bates, Roger Fermor, Lyndon Davies, Andrew Wishart, Rob Harrison.
Umpire: Nick Willson
Report by Nick Willson
Next week the Vets are playing Kenley at home at the Prep School at 11.15 instead of away at 14.15, due to Kenley’s grass pitch being unplayable.