All the news and match reports from a history making weekend, with the Ladies 1’s securing National League status for next season, and titles confirmed for Men’s 2’s and Ladies Acolytes. Slightly shorter edition this week as several games were also postponed due to Covid.

Ladies 1’s v City of Peterborough
3 – 2 Win (AWAY)

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Stortford ladies promoted to National League

In beating City of Peterborough 3-2 Stortford Ladies have won the East Women’s Premier Division and are promoted to the National League for the first time in the club’s 74 year history.

The game at Peterborough was typical of many this season with Stortford winning by the odd goal in five, this being their sixth victory with a 3-2 scoreline.

The first goal settling Stortford’s nerves came in the 7th minute from a flowing move down the left started by Katie Richards, who once again had a superb game at centre midfield. Sally Powell and Kate Robinson combined well, and when Abbie Barrett shot was saved, Powell was available to turn in the rebound. Richards then went close with a solo run and shot that went narrowly wide, before Peterborough equalised on twenty minutes after a period of intense pressure. 

The game was end to end but just before half time Stortford regained the lead when a swift counter-attack between Richards, Powell and Barrett caused havoc in the Peterborough defence, and Pearl Mason-Smith centred and with the ball spinning in the air Barrett was quick to pounce, volleying home a spectacular overhead shot.

Stortford increased their lead immediately after half time when Powell’s interception and probing run won Stortford’s second short corner from which Richards and Barrett executed a slick drill to perfection, Barrett’s deflection making it 3-1, her 31st goal of a prolific season.

Peterborough were not finished and despite some heroics from ‘keeper Ali Martyn pulling off several exceptional saves, the hosts pulled a goal back and Stortford had to play out the last nerve wracking ten minutes with Molly Brooks and Imogen Basavaraj in the thick of the action working tirelessly in defence, and with some assured keeping from Martyn, the Stortford Player of the Match, getting them over the line.

Richard Temple, the Ladies Club Captain, said the success was built on solid foundations, with five of the squad coming through the junior programme. ‘The whole club has been behind the team, and while the squad has shown humility, hard work and commitment, it’s important to remember that five of the squad started their careers in the junior section and many started their Stortford careers further down the club. So all our junior coaches and senior captains – past and present – are elements in this success.’

The Ladies’ Manager, Mark Surridge, coached Dan Leonard’s Men’s team that won promotion to the East Premier back in 2008, and now has been manager for Charlie Leonard’s title winning team 15 years later. Surridge paid tribute to Nick Prowse the Ladies Coach and to Captain Charlie Leonard who is stepping down at the end of the season, having been a member of the 1st X1 since 2004.

‘Nick Prowse is a very fine coach and has got the best out of this squad. He sets high standards both in terms of fitness and skills, and his training sessions set great store on aggressive pressing and fast counter-attacking hockey. It might be a high risk strategy but a glance at the league table showing we have scored 73 goals shows his exciting approach is the right one. The players prefer playing attacking hockey that’s for sure.’

‘An important feature of the success this season has been our success at scoring goals from short corners with slick, well worked routines, and in not conceding at the other end. This success is achieved by working hard at training.’

‘Another important element in our success has been the contribution made by our Captain, Charlie Leonard, whose dedication and focus has been exceptional. She will be a hard act to follow but can now concentrate on her own game as she has been selected for the England O45 Masters X1.’

Nick Prowse has blended youth with experience, and made good use of the contributions of the four club stalwarts. In addition to Leonard there has been Sally Powell, the longest serving of all the first team who first played back in 2002; Lexi Guthrie, who joined Powell and Leonard in the first team fifteen years ago when she started playing aged 14; and goalkeeper, Ali Martyn, who has had her best season, too, since she started fifteen years ago.

Understandably Nick Prowse is very proud of his squad, ‘We set promotion to the National League as our goal four years ago and the players bought into the idea and they have worked hard at achieving this goal. This season’s success is going to drive the club forward in many ways. “We already run 8 senior ladies sides, have more than 250 girls in our Junior Section and coaches out delivering hockey in local schools, so there is room for us to be optimistic about the future”’

Mens 1’s v St Albans
3 – 2 Win (Away)

Stortford ones travelled to St Albans knowing that a win would secure 2nd place in the league and started the game on the front foot winning some early corners, however some wayward injections meant nothing came from them. A quick Albans counter saw them create a good chance to score, but Paul Round made a good tackle to prevent the shooting opportunity, unfortunately in the strikers follow through the striker connected with Pauls wrist and causing a delay to the game while he received medical treatment and later went to hospital. 

Determined not to let this setback cost them the game Stortford continued to put pressure on the Albans defence and a miss hit pass from Oliver Plummer bounced through to Dave Roberts who calmly slotted the ball to make it 1-0. Stortford kept pressing for a second allowing space in behind and a swift counter attack saw Albans level with a smart finish.

Unwilling to let their heads drop like in previous years Stortford increased the pressure and found a foot in the D to win another corner, this time a good injection from Adam Farley gave Jack Wheaton the chance to rip a flick to make it 2-1. However Albans never felt like they were out of the game and were able to get a second goal just before half time. Coach Ecott calmed the team down with some wise words.

The second half was a back and forth game with both teams unable to take the chances they were creating and Stortford lost Andy Round to injury when a very wayward shot hit him in the knee. The game looked to be heading for a draw until Stortford won another corner. The original flick was expertly stopped on the line, but Dave Roberts was following in and tucked the rebound away. A nervous few minutes followed with Ryan Cruwys making some good saves to keep Stortford in the lead until the final whistle. 

After the game coach Ecott said “We came here with our strongest squad and had the belief that we could get the win. Losing Paul early could have derailed the game, but credit to the team for keeping focus. The aim next season is to win the league, but for now we put our energy into winning the final game of the season next week.”

Ladies 2’s v Broxbourne 2’s
4 – 2 Win (Home)

Stortford came back from 2 goals down to take a 4-2 win against local rivals Broxbourne Saturday.

Stortford had the better of the early possession but weren’t able to make it count, and were made to pay, as a loose ball was pounced on by a Broxbourne forward, who deftly placed it just out of reach of the on rushing keeper. She continued to cause havoc, running at the defence and creating several opportunities. She again was quickest to the ball and slotted home to give the visitors a 2 goal lead.   

Undeterred Stortford started to play their way back into the game, player of the match Jen Pearce teed up Anna Swann from a penalty corner to pull one back, and then found herself on the scoresheet. The Broxbourne defence could only watch on as her stunning strike from the top of the d hit the back board to draw the teams level at half-time.

Pearce set up Stortfords third mid-way through the half, playing through Michelle Titcombe-Rogers who rounded the keeper to put the hosts ahead for the first time in the game. Broxbourne continued to create chances, keeping the Stortford defence busy but were unable to find a way through. Broxbourne’s vocal penalty claim from a short corner was waved away by the umpires, much to the visitors annoyance, their frustrations eventually leading to their captain being yellow carded on the sideline. The match was then held up as she decided to dramatically pack up her bag and walk slowly across the pitch.  Stortford made sure of the points with a fourth, Millie Andrews making sure Lizzie Roberts shot crossed the goal line to complete the comeback.

With just one match left against the leagues bottom side Letchworth, Stortford should finish in a respectable fourth place.

Men’s 2’s v Harpenden
5 – 0 Win (Away)

The sun-drenched pavilion at Clarence Park on Saturday morning gave the appearance of a bygone post pandemic age: Hobbs and Sutcliffe opening the batting for England, Abrahams and Liddell winning gold medals in Paris and Fred Cooke’s first county squash title. When the Stortford players took to the pitch it became apparent the surface had been laid around the same time, and that the high paced game which had brought them to the brink of glory would need to be tempered. 

The passing joggers of St Albans would have been forgiven for thinking that a crack Morris Dancing team was in preparation for Whitsun as the Stortford boys went through their warmup, but AK was not leaving anything to chance (see below) and after a brief pep talk from the skipper the team set about wrapping up the East 3SW title.  

Whether it was a deliberate attempt to employ chaos theory, an over eagerness to press the ball into the opposition’s left half or just people wanting to get out of the sun Stortford decided to play the first 15 minutes of the game without a left midfield, enabling Harpenden to launch occasional forays into the Stortford 25, however all were dealt with by Messrs Price, Hall and Hickman, who remained rock solid throughout the game.

At their first penalty corner Stortford managed to shovel the ball through 100 years’ worth of sand to get it in position for Butler to do what he does best: distract the opposition with his extraordinary haircut and send a looping flick into the net. From then on it seemed the die was cast and Stortford took hold of the game, producing a nice mix of short hockey through the midfield line and more direct routes to the forwards from Price, Hall and Aidan.

2-0 at half time did not reflect the dominance Stortford had enjoyed in both possession and territory but the result and league title were effectively sealed when Butler’s hair again proved its worth at a penalty corner, leaving Harpenden bewildered to the extent they did not notice the ball lightly nestling into the top of the net. A 4-0 advantage with 3 minutes remaining is not commonly known as a time of high anxiety however AK had maintained tunnel vision throughout the game and celebrated like a 1982 Marco Tardelli when he knocked in the 5th.   

So the title is wrapped up with a game to spare, congratulations to all involved. The open-top bus has been cancelled as it would have run out of petrol queuing for the Hockerill lights but celebrations will be taking place after the last home game of the season next Saturday.

Ladies 3’s v Saffron Walden 3’s – East Div 3 South West
4 – 1 W (Away)

An important couple of weeks for the ladies 3xi and this week the team did not disappoint. A great first 20 minutes saw Player of the match Issy Hatfield pick up a rebound from the Saffron Walden Keeper and put it away beautifully on her reverse stick. Bishops Stortford then seemed to go into a lull with stray passes and a drop in intensity. This led to Saffron Walden going in at half time with a 1-1 draw. A stern half time chat saw the team revitalised and it wasn’t long before Lydia Seleska did a beautiful drive down the base line. She crossed it in for Vicky Cox to pounce and put away a lovely reverse stick goal. Shortly afterwards Katy Motson won a short corner which was beautifully executed with a slip to Jemma Petitt who put it back to the P spot where Issy Hatfield was waiting to strike to make it 3-1 to Bishops Stortford. Stortford didn’t take their foot off the gas and Vicky Cox scored yet another reverse stick goal making it 4-1.

Ladies Archdeaconesses (4’s) v Royston 1’s – East Div 3 South West
2– 1 Win (Home)

In the bright sunshine but windy conditions Bishops Stortford Archdeaconesses were missing a few key players. However the squad stepped up and fought hard against Royston 1s

Royston took the lead in the first half with some very quick young players dominate in the midfield

The second half however Bishops Stortford raised their game and equalised when a penalty stroke was converted by Elizabeth Reay.

Bishops Stortford battled hard until the end, their fight paid off as just minutes from time they won a second penalty stroke, Pippa Bull stepping up to convert and grabbing the win for the Archdeaconesses.

Men’s 4’s v Welwyn Garden City
2 -2 draw (Home)

Bishop’s Stortford put in a strong performance to draw with the second-placed team in 4SW.

After dominating the early part of the game, Stortford fell behind when clearing off the line to a Welwyn forward with keeper Harry Fishpool beaten, making for a simple finish.

Stortford thoroughly deserved to equalise before half-time with a close range finish from [to follow] and continued to have the better part of the play in the second half, winning numerous corners. However Stortford were unable to take advantage of those and were hit on the break by the fast and skilful Welwyn forwards to again concede the lead.

Happily Stortford continued to play well and found a reward with an equaliser through Paul Tomlin about ten minutes from the end.

Ladies 5’s/6’s/8’s INTERCLUB FRIENDLY

Ladies 7’s v Stevenage – East Div 7 South West
4 -0 (Away)

The Ladies 7s continued their winning streak with a 4-0 win at Stevenage this week, although it was a bit of a shaky start on a very sandy pitch which considerably slowed the ball pace.  However, once settled to the pitch pace the 7s started to work their magic with Alison Chadwick scoring the first and only goal of the first half.  The 7s started stronger in the second half and Jess Green scored 3 in a 15 minute spell, her first hat trick since returning to playing hockey this year.

There were strong performances across the pitch with particular mention to Livi Figg and Beth Moore in defence, Alison Chadwick and Savannah Taylor in the midfield and Jess Green up front, who all received Player of the match votes.
Player of the match was shared by Savannah Taylor and Alison Chadwick.

The 7s have only been beaten once this season, way back in October, a great winning streak

The magnificent sevens