Purple army slip up in first game back since December

ENGLAND HOCKEY NATIONAL DIVISION ONE SOUTH: Havant 2 Sevenoaks 1

Sevenoaks slipped to a disappointing defeat in the first game back after the winter break, now leaving them five points behind leaders Oxted with seven games remaining.

Oaks travelled to the south coast to face Havant with a depleted squad, missing five regular first team players through a combination of injury and unavailability. In spite of this, the youthful Sevenoaks side put in a very spirited performance and were unlucky to end up on the losing side. The first half was a very even affair with Oaks probably shading things in terms of possession. They didn’t make many clear-cut opportunities, but their best chance came from a counter attack after a Havant penalty corner broke down. An incisive pass forwards by Ian Haley released Alex Thomson beyond the last Havant defender.

Thomson bore down on goal and slipped the ball to the far post for what should have been a tap in, but the pass was awkward for debutant Matt Morey and he was unable to touch the ball in, as it slid agonisingly wide of the post. Oaks had further opportunities from a couple of penalty corners, but one effort fizzed wide of the right upright and the other was comfortably saved by the Havant keeper.

Havant had a penalty corner of their own but failed to threaten the Oaks goal. Just before half-time, Havant broke with an attack down the right hand side of the pitch and a ball into the D found an unmarked attacker, who finished neatly with a first time shot to out the hosts 1-0 up as the sides went into the interval.

Oaks started the second half strongly and within six minutes they were level at 1-1 when a penalty corner was converted by Craig Wiid. Oaks were in the ascendancy and some good skill along the base line by Ben Fox saw the ball played across goal for what looked like an open goal for two Oaks attackers, but somehow the ball evaded them both and rolled to safety. Oaks would be made to pay for their profligacy, and their job was made harder by spending seven minutes down to ten men, when Chris Barker saw green and Ed Matts saw yellow for tackles in the Oaks half.

When down to ten men, Havant were awarded a penalty corner and were able to convert to make it 2-1 with ten minutes remaining. Oaks poured forwards in search of an equaliser and had a couple of goalmouth scrambles but couldn’t find the scoring touch. They left themselves very open at the back and Havant could easily have killed the game of with a number of counter attacks, but it remained 2-1 when the final whistle blew.

The result sees Havant leapfrog Sevenoaks into second place in the National Division One South, and they now trail leaders Oxted by five points. To have any hope of promotion Sevenoaks will need to win all of their remaining games and hope that Oxted slip up not once but twice in the run in.