Oaks’ promotion challenge hits the breaks after loss to Canterbury

England Hockey National Division One South: Canterbury 3 Sevenoaks 2

Sevenoaks saw their promotion hopes dashed after a last gasp defeat to Kent rivals Canterbury on Saturday afternoon.

In a tetchy affair, littered with cards, it was Oaks who drew first blood in the tenth minute when a quick free hit from Ian Haley found Tim Warrington on the top of the D. His early shot was saved by the goalkeeper but Ali Taylor touched the rebound into the path of Ed Matts  who was able to slip it under the keeper into the back of the net to make it 1-0. In front of an extremely vocal crowd Canterbury grew into the game and in the seventeenth minute won a penalty corner just before the end of the first quarter, which was well kept out by Richard Potton in the Oaks goal.

Oaks pressed forwards but couldn’t add a second goal and Canterbury drew level at 1-1 when a scramble saw the ball brilliantly saved on the goal line but the umpire deemed it to have struck the defender’s body and awarded a penalty stroke that was converted into the bottom corner. Sevenoaks has a glorious chance to go straight back ahead, when Ed Matts stole the ball of the Canterbury defender and fed Ali Taylor who opted to shoot,  when a pass would have given Matts an open goal, and his shot went wide of the post.

Oaks played the remainder of the half with ten men as first Andrew Ross was sin-binned for two minutes for an untidy challenge in the Oaks defensive third, then Aaron Cheema also spent two minutes off the pitch for an innocuous tackle in the middle of the pitch, and George Torry was given a five minute sin-bin for having a shot at goal after the whistle had been blown for an infringement. The man disadvantage cost Oaks when a sloppy piece of defending gifted Canterbury the ball deep in the Oaks half and they were able to score to take a 2-1 lead into half time.

The third quarter was a tense affair and this time it was Canterbury on the receiving end of a green card, but Oaks couldn’t take advantage of the numerical advantage despite winning a couple penalty corners; failing to score or even test the keeper from either of them. Canterbury were sitting incredibly deep and stepping forwards only on the counterattack, and Oaks found it difficult to break them down. Into the fourth quarter Oaks continued to press forwards and had all the possession, but it was probably Canterbury who had the better chances on the break, until two minutes from time when Sam George was fouled in the D and Oaks were awarded a penalty corner. This time Oaks did hit the target and beat the keeper with a Craig Wiid effort to draw the sides level at 2-2. With less than a minute on the clock, Canterbury won a penalty corner and had one last chance to win the game, and the drag-flick found the bottom corner to make it 3-2 to the hosts with no time remaining for Oaks to come back.

It was a hugely frustrating result for Sevenoaks, who dominated large parts of the game and certainly didn’t get the rub of the umpiring decisions. The defeat leaves them adrift of Oxted and Havant in the table, and promotion back to the Premier League now looks extremely unlikely. However, with six games remaining, there are eighteen more points to play for and that will have to be the target for Oaks.