Week 21 Results – Narrow Defeats for L1s & M2s While M1s Emerge Victorious

Newmarket Men’s 1s: 3-2 win vs Pelicans Men’s 2s (Away)
(Holden 2, Smith)

This weekend brought Newmarket’s third-to-last fixture of the season, an away leg in sunny Kings Lynn and to the Pelicans team contained within. As Town’s hardy bunch of blue & yellow encrusted representatives wound their way through the idyllic concrete council estates and occasional hooded rogue, they reflected upon the side awaiting them in this land of hope, glory, and baggy grey tracksuit bottoms.

Much like their short corner tactics, Newmarket arrived at the dressing room in a series of waves. First came the solid defenders, then the nimble wingers, the stalwart goalie, the midfield general, the skilful strikers, and finally Simon Harrington. This left plenty of time for the early arrivals to sample the various facilities of the away dressing room, including a sauna (complete with single occupant doing lobster impression), tanning cubicle and several showers ranging from IES to Felixstowe temperatures. What a club!

The pitch at Pelicans is famously further from the dressing rooms than most of Norwich Dragons’ away matches are from their home ground, so the first wave had time for a quick 5-a-side tournament before Captain Matt Holden, Will “It’s ok, I’m here!” Wilson and Johnny “chimney” Bunker actually got there.

The game began with Pelicans on the front foot, forcing Newmarket to play on the break for the vast majority of the match. It soon became apparent that this game would be won or lost in the Newmarket half with Pelicans adopting a formation that, while strengthening them up top, left them light at the back. Therefore they would be vulnerable to the counter attack and this was soon proven, Town taking the league through a Smith tap-in at the far post after good work in the middle from Harry Bell, Holden and Mike “I hit so hard my stick breaks” Skelton. Unfortunately for Newmarket, that was not all Skelton had broken, and he soon had to come off with a reoccurrence of a groin strain he picked up in a friendly against St Ives earlier this season. His more than able replacement from the bench was Bunker, who temporarily swapped his cigarette for a hockey stick and put in a battling performance up top.

Despite excellent defending from Jordan Newnes and Harrington in the middle, Pelicans were able to equalise soon after. The umpires then began to dish out green cards like they were going out of fashion, several Pelicans players and both Holden and Chris Leggett getting to know the extremities of the pitch a little better while they did time in the sin bin.

The main threat for Newmarket was coming from the full backs in Darren Jenkins and Wilson, both rampaging forward and creating chances for the forwards. Notable were chances for Smith and a diving Louis Hrebeniak, the former dragging his shot narrowly wide after good play from Holden and the latter not quite able to turn home a Jenkins cross to the far post. Smith was then presented with another decent chance but was unfortunately unable to convert, so the half time whistle blew with the score at 1-1.

The second half proceeded in much the same manner as the first, Newmarket playing on the break with pace and looking to overload the short-handed Pelicans defence. However, Pelicans were dangerous going forward with their extra attacker and special mentions must go to Town keeper Martin McCourt and the back line of Jenkins, Harrington, Newnes & Wilson for their superb defensive work. This was emphasised when Bell took a free hit quickly, worked it forward via Smith, it found its way to Holden who placed the ball under the keeper to secure a 2-1 lead. Soon after, it was very nearly three as Leggett’s deflected cross was narrowly missed by the flying Hrebeniak for the second time that afternoon – the winger ending up in the back of the net but unfortunately not followed by the ball.

Finally, it was 3; Hrebeniak exchanged passes with Wilson who drove the ball up the line to Holden. The captain used his lightning pace to skin two defenders, before dribbling into the ‘D’ and almost apologetically leathering the ball past the keeper and against the backboard. 3-1, an Atkinson-esque finish. But while most players would go looking for hat trick at this juncture, Town’s lovable leader decided to give everyone else a chance and earned himself a 10-minute yellow for not retreating fully five yards. Pelicans began to press with renewed vigour and quickly pulled one back before winning a number of short corners. The back line was, once again, superb in denying Pelicans a point, Harrington with a brilliant goal line clearance and Jenkins mopping up several late runners. Bunker held the ball up well as a lone striker and finally the last whistle blew, Newmarket running out deserved 3-2 winners for the second week running.

MOTM – Something of a confusion over this, but probably either Newnes or Harrington.

DOTD – Smith for missing a couple of – there’s no nice way of putting this, even concerning a Pak associate – gilt-edged chances.

Newmarket Men’s 2s: 3-4 loss vs Pelicans Men’s 3s (Home)
(J. Atkinson 2, Pears)

Not sure what it is about hockey in East Anglia, but there seems to be an awful lot of birds flapping around. The M2s welcomed a ‘sedge’ of Cranes to Newmarket for their last home game and this week it was a ‘pod’ of Pelicans along with a distinct smell of fish. The last time Newmarket played Pelicans, the game was played on a ‘slip date’ in Kings Lynn. On that day when Pelicans 1’s and 2’s were sat around with nothing to do other than a spot of preening or to play for the 3s, Newmarket struggled against a far better side and lost 4:0. Today’s game was a different proposition and many of the players arriving at Newmarket Leisure Centre, we hadn’t spotted before, perhaps they were on a migratory flight? This was a critical game for Newmarket as the season draws to a close with the team just outside the relegation zone on goal difference and the players were desperate for a win. From the push back it was clear this was not the same pod of Pelicans and Newmarket soon found a rhythm, settling into some great hockey. The starting line up included a mid-field of Drew Wood, Dan Labuschagne, Josh Dawson and James Atkinson who combined well and provided great service to forwards Lee ‘Budda’ Blades and Mark ‘Arsenal’ Pears. It wasn’t long before the early dominance of the game paid off for Newmarket. Following an exchange of some neat passes, Budda broke into the ‘D’ drawing the keeper out and selflessly passed to his right where Arsenal was waiting to guide the ball home. Not much later, the Newmarket defence were called upon. The back four of Adrian Atkinson, Andy Baker, John Benedikz and Marc ‘Mungo’ Prentice were soon put under Pelican pressure and keeper Laurence Chapman was beaten to make it 1 apiece. The rest of the first half was a very evenly fought contest, the key difference being that Pelicans converted their chances and Newmarket did not. Subs. William Hosegood and Peter Booth were regularly rotated to keep players as ‘fresh’ as possible and Hosegood almost scored a second for Newmarket, but the ball hit the post and went wide. There was no shortage of effort from the team and there were some exceptional moments, not least of which was seeing right back Adrian Atkinson in the Pelicans ‘D’ having a shot on goal. However, while Newmarket notched up countless chances of adding to their tally, Pelicans were far more clinical in front of goal and added a further 2 goals before half time.
There was no despondency at the half time break. The team knew they had played some excellent hockey and the game was far from over. Atkinson senior even managed to get back from his foray into attack in time for the restart as Newmarket upped their game even further. James Atkinson continued to cause the Pelicans defence all sorts of problems and his work rate was soon rewarded. He drove into the Pelicans ‘D’ wide on the right and slammed a shot across the keeper into the bottom left hand corner. Now at 3:2, Newmarket sensed the game was turning in their favour and they continued to create chances. It was young Atkinson that later added to his tally and equalised for Newmarket, earning himself MoM in the process. He picked up the ball from a poor Pelicans clearance around the 23m line and drove the ball back towards the top of the ‘D’ where he was met by a defender. Atkinson turned his back to the defender, stepped right and then quickly back to his left pulling the ball into the ‘D’ creating enough space to get his shot away. The ball took a slight deflection on its way but it found the net and Newmarket’s celebrations showed just how important that goal was. The team had a point but wanted all 3 and continued to press hard, perhaps playing a little too high as legs started to tire. It was Pelicans that were to have the last laugh as their experienced midfielder broke into the Newmarket ‘D’ taking the ball to the right of goal but deftly flicking over the outcoming keeper, the ball nestling into the left side of the net. With only a few minutes remaining Newmarket were left gutted by the final result in what was perhaps one of the best team performances this season. Budda picked up DoD for not getting on the score sheet and the pressure continues to mount with only 2 games remaining to avoid relegation.

Newmarket Ladies’ 1s: 0-1 loss vs St Neots Ladies’ 1s (Away)

This week Newmarket faced St Neots 1s away. It was a closely fought match and Newmarket went down a goal after the first 15 minutes, then pushed to try and level before half time.

Beth Wombwell received a great pass from Kerry Alderson to fire just wide and there was some good play pushing forward by the team.

After half time, Newmarket pushed forward again and again, creating plenty but falling short of a goal. Newmarket had 4 short corners which they couldn’t capitalise on.

Nothing went Newmarket’s way and the decisions were somewhat in St Neots’ favour on many occasions!

Newmarket were playing some promising hockey in the second half and unlucky not to get a point.

Man of the Match went to Grace Evans who had some great touches.

Two games to go!!! Come on 1’s….. We can do this to stay in this division.

Newmarket Ladies’ 2s: 0-15 loss vs Bourne Deeping Ladies’ 1s (Home)

Newmarket Ladies’ 3s: 1-6 loss vs Cambridge South Ladies’ 2s (Away) (Smith)

Above: Newmarket celebrate after Laura Smith slams home.
Click here to view photographs of the match by Michael Bennett.