Brighton and Hove's women snapped back into action on Saturday after the mid-season break and hauled themselves off the bottom of the South Clubs League with a superb victory over Witney at Blatchington Mill.
It was only their second win of the season and the first time they have scored more than twice in a match as two goals apiece from Bara Kavanova and Fran Crossley helped them to a 5-2 triumph.
Delighted captain Amanda Billington reports: "We went out with plenty of enthusiasm but were held in our half for the first 10 minutes with Pip making a crucial clear off the line. Twelve minutes in and Bara shoots home to go ahead from a straight strike bullet.
"One of our aims was to make clear runs, which was evident in our second goal from open play where Verity made a gorgeous pass for a great assist for Fran to score. Another Bara corner took us three goals ahead. The whole team started to make interconnecting plays up the pitch but Witney’s attack resulted in a penalty corner which Amanda saved. Bara saved the rebound but then placed the ball onto her own foot resulting in a stroke which Witney converted to see a 3-1 score line at half time.
"Joint man of the match Alice and Rachel both made awesome tackles and passes all over the pitch, Alice converting a team passing goal which took us further ahead. Despite being 4-1 up Brighton seemed panicked, possibly due to the umpires' decisions rather than Witney’s attack. Rosie made the most awesome run back to tackle in the D when she was 10 metres behind the attack but the umpire ruled she knocked it off the back line on purpose and gave a short corner, which Witney converted with a double deflection.
"But Brighton had not finished with Fran slotting home a second from a plethora of smooth passes upfield."
Brighton move off the bottom above Maidenhead and to within three points of Reading but face a stiff challenge against second-placed Oxford University at Blatchington this Saturday (noon pushback).
Sussex League premier division leaders BHHC 2s returned to action with a 3-1 win at Middleton thanks to two late goals.
“The 2s were a bit apprehensive about our first game back after a very long festive break,” reports skipper Nivene Raafat. “Indeed, some players seemed to have forgotten that the match came before teas and accidentally drove straight to Middleton’s clubhouse instead of the pitch!
“We piled the pressure on straight from the off, with Becca and Amber making some fabulous runs down the left and the right. We had a flurry of opportunities within the first few minutes, but it was Middleton who got on the scoreboard first, converting a well worked short corner that saw the injector deflect the shot in. There was very little that our defence could do about it.
“Undeterred, we concentrated on trying to catch Middleton on the break, and Jo, finding herself unmarked in the D, unleashed a trio of shots in quick succession, the third of which hit a defender on the line. She deftly converted the resulting flick, placing it beautifully to the keeper’s right.
“Despite our best efforts to break the deadlock in the second half, Middleton kept us at bay with some outstanding defending and some formidable goalkeeping. It was like they had ten players in the D! Despite what felt like 50 short corners and countless shots on goal, it was still 1-1 with only five minutes to go. Having exhausted our arsenal of short corner routines, we decided to use a bit of cunning to outwit the Middleton defence: a delayed pass from Kelly left Jo free to slot home from just inside the D.
“The relief was palpable, and Jo completed her hattrick just moments later from a beautifully worked move that ended with our player of the match calmly slotting home from close range. Lots to work on but another three points to keep us at the top of the league.”
Brighton remain two points clear of Hailsham at the top while the 3s stepped up their game and impressed in a 2-2 draw at home to third-placed Lewes 2s.
Christine Cawte reports: “Our first league game of January saw a full squad ready to take on Brighton’s biggest rivals, Lewes, at home and we did not disappoint. However, drama ensued before we even began the warm-up stretches with DOD Bish locking herself out of her flat (£70 later she arrived), Postie being MIA whilst nursing a nurse with a broken nose and Ellen taking herself out during our warm-up game in spectacular style.
“In the first half, Lewes came out strong and challenged us to step up to their quick passes and high energy. As the first half progressed, we improved our link-ups between the midfielders and forwarders which put Lewes under pressure. A sneaky goal put Lewes 1-0 up as we broke for half-time; however our fighting spirit and hunger for points saw the 3s battle straight from the starting whistle.
“Our defence blocked the pressure from Lewes’ speedy forwards and thwart all their penalty corners (even after two defenders were sent back to the halfway line).
“Then our break came. An array of excellent passes and well timed runs saw Sam pass a fast ball ahead of all of the defenders to MOM Christine who sprinted onto it. With Lewes’ fastest defender hot on her heels and the goalie fully committing to a run to the top of the D, Christine curved an ‘outstanding’ shot (in the words of Wilson) around the goalie and straight into the corner, resulting in the 3s passion being fired up even more.
“The second half continued with this high-intensity play throughout even when Lewes stole their second goal. Yet again, we dug deep and were awarded our first penalty corner. Beth’s trademark powerhouse of a straight strike saw the ball soar towards the corner of the goal ready for a perfectly timed deflection from Ang taking us to a 2-2 scoreline against the current third in the league.
“The final 10 minutes were a continued battle for points yet our midfielders and defenders refused to allow Lewes another goal by any means necessary with Metal using her knee-slides to effect, Vaughan taking a stick to the jaw (highlighting her unknown inner lip tattoo) and Sam taking out a Lewes midfielder in what can only be described as a ‘tumbleweed’ tackle.
“At the final whistle, the 3s were more than happy with the 2-2 draw as this game reignited our passion for points, highlighted to us how much we have grown as a team and reminded us all that we should never, under any circumstances, get YOLO tattooed on the inside of our lip…”
South Downs 1s were no match for a rampant 4s in division one as they conceded eight without reply, allowing Ellie Hehir to wax lyrical.
“It was late Saturday afternoon and the weather seemed to be taking dry January as seriously as the Fours! Dampening spirits even more was the realisation that fave striker Lou was in the big smoke for the day but the team trouped on!
“Cressie’s first game back brought out the usual jovial competition with forwards scoring numerous goals using Wendy's favourite bad cake angle.
Annoyance at being subbed and getting chilly was resolved when JP took one for the team with a painful ball to the knee. (Broken boilers and swollen knee - not JP's week!)
“South Downs fought hard and GK Emily managed to get a touch in the second half and the defence got some action which wasn't running to collect the ball.
“Lots of chances on goal, excellent passes, working on passing it round the back and high energy gave the Fours a tasty 8-0 win to get them back into the spirit of hockey season!”
The 5s came out fighting when they took on Burgess Hill 2s and lost a thrilling game by the odd goal in seven.
Over to Drinky for the blow-by-blow report. “As I wake to photos of our defender Midge’s panda eyes, wonky nose and swollen face after a ball hit her, I can’t help reminisce about our epic game yesterday.
“We took on Burgess Hill for the second time this season. Sadly they had beaten us 3-0 in our first encounter. And with us being low in the table they had come expecting an easy game.
“We were fresh faced from early training sessions and a friendly against the fours last week. This match was not going to be an early knock out, we were going full rounds.
“We had them on the ropes early, they were having to chase the game. We exchange blows but always looked the stronger and better team. The bell rang for half time just a few seconds to late for us and despite our fantastic goals they went in up at half time.
“This was no Million Dollar Baby, this was Rocky. We had players hitting the deck, we gave them some good low blows, right hooks and sucker punches. This match was on. The gloves were off.
“Every single player battled on that pitch. Our passing improved, our rhythm, our connection and our power all went to another level. We will carry this on to our next game. Despite all our efforts Burgess Hill took the win 4-3 but they never felt confident they could. It was a tough one for them. Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. We aren’t hanging our gloves up yet.
“Well done to Katie Cornhill for passing her umpiring assessment at our game.”