Sevenoaks embarked upon their Indoor Premier League campaign this weekend with a trip to Bromsgrove School to face East Grinstead, Holcombe, Surbiton and Loughborough Students. The Indoor format has proved hugely successful for Oaks over the last few years, with finals day appearances at Wembley Arena in each of the last 3 seasons. This season it provides a welcome break from the difficult start to the outdoor season. In spite of missing a few key players, the Oaks squad was strengthened by the addition of external players; former Oaks star Andy Whalley, former England indoor international Harry Jawanda and current GB development squad member Jack Turner.
Sevenoaks 7 East Grinstead 9
In the opening game against East Grinstead, Sevenoaks took an early lead through Whalley but two goals in reply from EG saw them lead 2-1 at half time. Turner levelled things up at 2-2 early in the second half, but then a four goal blitz from EG saw them race into a 6-2 lead with only 11 minutes to go. A Duncan Parnis field goal took the score to 6-3 but a quick reply from EG restored the 4 goal advantage at 7-3. Oaks took goalkeeper Richard Potton off and replaced him with an outfield player to create an overload in order to chase the game and it worked a treat, and in the space of 2 minutes goals from Jawanda, David Smith and two for Whalley, to complete his hattrick, saw Oaks draw level at 7-7 with only 2 minutes remaining. Oaks opted to change tactics to close the game out, bringing Potton back on and unfortunately this invited pressure on the Oaks defence, allowing EG to dominate he closing minutes and two late goals for EG saw a final score of 9-7 in EG’s favour.
Sevenoaks 5 Holcombe 5
In the second game of the opening day, Sevenoaks got off to a flying start against Kent rivals Holcombe, racing into a 4-0 lead before half time, with a hattrick from Smith and Jawanda adding another. Oaks defended an onslaught from Holcombe in the second half with captain Nick Barker and player coach Duncan Parnis putting in a great shift in defence, however, Holcombe played their way back into the match and gradually ate away at the Oaks lead until they found a dramatic equaliser in the last minute. However, as is so often the case with indoor hockey, that was not the end of the drama, and incredibly Oaks managed to turn the momentum back in their favour and score to make it 5-4 with only 8 seconds remaining. Holcombe went hung ho from the restart, having removed their goalkeeper, and they somehow managed to get into the Oaks D and win a penalty corner just as the final hooter blew. The set play had been awarded before the clock ticked to zero, so it was to be played out and agonisingly for Oaks, Holcombe were able to convert to grab a 5-5 draw, which most certainly felt like a defeat for Sevenoaks after leading 4-0 at half time and 5-4 with seconds to go.
Sevenoaks 1 Surbiton 6
Oaks started the Sunday games with their worst performance of the weekend, and just couldn’t get going against last season’s champions Surbiton. An early goal for Surbiton was cancelled out by a Parnis equaliser, but that was as good as it got as Surbiton went into half time leading 2-1. The second half was one to forget for Oaks as they conceded four more with no reply to lose 6-1. Meaning the closing game of the weekend against Loughborough had quickly become a must win with both sides sitting in the bottom 3 on just 1 point.
Sevenoaks 7 Loughborough Students 3
Oaks got off to a fast start taking a 1-0 lead through a Jawanda penalty corner but quick replies from Loughborough saw them take the lead 2-1 after 10 minutes. Parnis levelled things up almost immediately, and in the remaining 10 minutes of the half Oaks goals from Turner and Smith gave them a 4-2 lead at half time. Loughborough briefly looked to threaten Oaks at the start of the second period pulling the score back to 4-3 but Oaks brilliantly closed out the game with two goals from George Torry and one for Jawanda to make the final score 7-3 to Oaks.
It was a mixed weekend for Oaks, and they finished as third top goal scorers, but unfortunately conceded a few too many at the same time, leaving them on 4 points after the opening 4 games and sitting in 7th place out of 9. The win against Loughborough gives them some breathing space from the relegation spots (8th place has 1 point and 9th has 0) and due to other results they are actually only one point off a place in the top 4, and qualification for finals day at The Copperbox at the end of January, so their is all to play for in the second weekend of fixtures on 6th and 7th January.