Leadenham Hockey Club First XI made a good start to 2020 with a win and draw in back-to-back fixtures last weekend.
They started the weekend above the relegation zone on goal difference from Ely, but beat their rivals 3-1 on Saturday.
They were ahead after five minutes when James Porter won possession and drove down the right before linking with Sam MacAllister who picked out Greg Amess to score at the far post.
Most of the game was played in Ely half, while Tom Corbett tracked back to help out the defence of Tom Cade, Neil Baldwin and Fergus Mack if required.
But Ely equalised from a short corner strike which deflected off Baldwin’s body and past keeper Thomas Pinchbeck as Baldwin’s run of unfortunate own goals extended to three in his last three games against Ely.
As the second half opened up, Pinchbeck made some stunning saves, while a string of Leadenham short corners all failed to find the net.
But with eight minutes left, Norgan Bevis picked up the ball in the D and his cleverly weighted pass set up Chambers to poke home at full stretch.
Showing great character, the team continued to press high and were rewarded with a killer third.
With a move straight from the training ground, Porter capped a superb individual display by picking up a pass to scoring his first league goal for the club.
The following day, a strong Long Sutton side were held.
Leadenham hit the front following a short corner routine, with Sam MacAllister picking out the bottom corner.
The hard-working Morgan Bevis then made it 2-0, breaking a two-year goal drought, showing calmness and quick reactions in the D.
Long Sutton pulled one back before half-time, and then levelled from a short corner.
David Nelstrop put Leadenham ahead again with a fantastic short corner routine, as MacAllister passed from the top of the D for Nelstrop to volley home.
Pinchbeck was man-of-the-match for some acrobatic saves and strong clearances, but he could do little to prevent Long Sutton equalising with a well-taken reverse strike.
The game was feisty at times and Fergus Mack was sin-binned after a bad foul on the halfway line, but Leadenham showed good character and dedication not to concede late on and finish the weekend four points clear of Ely.
Team: T. Pinchbeck, N. Chambers (C), F. Mack, S. MacAllister, N. Baldwin, C. Cade, D. Nelstrop, T. Corbett, T. Cade, J. Porter, M. Ortyll, M. Bevis, C. Wright, N. Ireland, G. Amess.
* Leadenham Ladies First XI earned a comfortable victory at Long Sutton with a six-goal show.
The ladies did well to keep up the pace and pressure as the very sandy pitch slowing the ball speed.
Sally Darling was first to score, before goals from Sophie Gretton and Llinos Jones made it 3-0 at half-time.
The second half saw another goal from Jones after textbook passing alongside Becks Bennett, and finally two well-earned goals from
Ciara Wright added a well-earned double, flicking them up and past the keeper to cap a tireless performance which won her the player-of-the-match award.
The young players on the pitch, Ayla Jacometti, Immy Glaves, Steph Amess and Lucy Walker, showed improved confidence and conviction with great tackles and passing to support Ellie Talton and Majella Wright in midfield.
The back two, Siobhan Croft and Laura Jacometti, handled the few counter-attacks that came their way, leaving keeper Susan Garrick with little to do.
Team: S. Garrick, S. Croft, S. Amess, L. Jacometti, I. Glaves, A. Jacometti, M. Wright, L. Walker, E. Talton (C), C. Wright, S. Gretton, L. Jones, B. Bennett, S. Darling.
* Following the previous week’s humbling 5-0 defeat in the home derby against Leadenham Seconds, the Third Xi knew it would be hard to pick themselves up for a trip to Alford Seconds.
Met by near-galeforce winds, the first 20 minutes was their worst performance of the season as a rampant Alford went 3-0 up, through well-struck short corners.
At times it appeared the hosts had 13 players on the pitch as they swarmed all over the Leadenham defence.
But to their credit, the Thirds rallied in the final 15 minutes of the first half, creating a host of chances before future prospect Joe Kay scored a cracker to bring the side back to 3-1 adrift at half-time.
Yet the second half became a repeat of the first 20 minutes as Leadenham went into all-out attack mode, leaving the defence again exposed.
The visitors worked several chances and perhaps had more shots on target than most games this season, but excellent saves by the Alford keeper stopped them adding to the score.
Waves of strong counter-attacks by big and physical opponents saw Leadenham concede two more well-taken goals, both through unlucky deflections.
But the 5-1 final score was a fair reflection of the game and the Thirds must regroup and build confidence again after a tough start to 2020.
Joe Kay was a well-deserved man-of-the-match goes for his great goal and tireless committed display.
Team: S. Corbett, A. Cade, S. Brown, N. Mountain, O. Philips, O. Down, M. Pearce, M. Wrigley, G. Kirton, J. Kay, J. Pearson, P. Swinburn, S. Mountain, F. Adams.