Sevenoaks lost a crunch relegation battle with University of Exeter on Sunday, which leaves them at the foot of the Premier League with two games remaining until the Christmas break.
The game started very evenly, with both sides enjoying spells of possession. Exeter had the first opportunity after eight minutes with a generously awarded penalty corner but it was repelled by Richard Potton in goal.
Oaks were unfortunate not to take the lead in the 11th minute when Tom Graham dribbled past numerous Exeter defenders before being fouled as he tried to get a shot off, but inexplicably the umpire awarded Exeter a free hit rather than a penalty stroke to Sevenoaks.
Ten minutes later Sevenoaks took the lead when Nick Barker took a quick free hit to Tim Warrington who carried along the baseline before picking out Ali Taylor who slapped high into the roof of the net to make it 1-0. The lead only lasted two months minutes though as the home side drew level in the 23rd minute making it 1-1.
Oaks responded well and won a penalty corner on the half hour mark but Brandon Gibbs saw his effort excellently turned round the post by the Exeter goalkeeper. Tom Graham was again unlucky not to be rewarded for excellent skill when the Exeter defender threw himself on the floor in the D blocking Graham’s path, but again it wasn’t deemed a foul by the umpire.
As half time approached Exeter broke on the counter and won a penalty corner on the stroke of half-time and a neat routine saw them take a 2-1 lead into the interval.
Sevenoaks came out after the break and immediately got back into the game as Sevenoaks Man of the Match, Nick Barker, pulled the ball back to Tom Chandler who tucked the ball home to make it 2-2.
Unfortunately ten minutes later Exeter re-took the lead with a shot from the top of the D that was deflected past Potton in the Oaks goal to make it 3-2. Sevenoaks again responded to the goal well and a flowing move saw them work the ball through to Taylor in the D and his first touch was excellent giving him a free shot at goal but he skewed his effort wide of goal.
Oaks then earned a penalty corner but the move broke down when the Exeter defender piled into the back of the Oaks attacker, preventing him from deflecting the ball on goal. Exeter saw a penalty corner well defended by Oaks before the visitors went down the other end and, in a near carbon copy of the second goal, the ball was worked across goal but this time Chandler couldn’t control the ball and slot into the gaping net.
With time running out Exeter were finally reduced to 10 men for another player going to ground and failing to play the ball.
Oaks took Potton off to finish the match with 11 outfield players and their extra man told when they earned a penalty corner with two minutes remaining but once again the Exeter keeper pulled off a great save to turn the ball round the post. Oaks piled on the pressure but could not find an equaliser and the final score finished 3-2 to Exeter.
Oaks now have two huge home games to take them into the Christmas break against current league leaders Surbiton and East Grinstead. They will need to get something from those games if they want to get off the foot of the table.