Leadenham Hockey Club’s First XI only managed to field 10 players in their 4-1 away defeat to league leaders Cambridge University.
Matt Ortyl was due to return from injury, but overslept, while Neil Baldwin furthered Leadenham’s woes by getting stuck in Cambridge’s legendary traffic and missed the entire game.
To Leadenham’s credit they changed their tactics and produced a defensive masterclass to try and get a result, limiting Cambridge’s chances.
Jab tackles from Tom Cade, Fergus Mack and captain Nathan Chambers shut down early attacks, and fine saves from Simon Chambers ensured Leadenham were never really threatened for most of the first half.
The visitors came closest to taking an early lead, exposing space left at the back by Cambridge as Sam MacAllister latched onto a Chambers aerial pass and sprinted away around the keeper, only to be denied by a clearance off the line.
Cambridge responded with a shot from a tight angle which was initially saved by Chambers, but a penalty flick from the rebound which broke the deadlock.
A second goal was added from a short corner, a well-placed low drag flick.
Cambridge had the lion’s share of possession but were comfortably held at bay for the rest of the half.
After the break the game continued in a similar vein; Cambridge’s set piece again providing them with their only chances, and two more goals.
Leadenham created a fair number of chances, hitting the woodwork, and flashing a shot inches wide before MacAllister scored a late consolation goal from a short corner.
Team: S. Chambers, F. Mack, N. Chambers (C), T. Cade, D. Nelstrop, M. Bevis, T. Corbett, B. Huggins, C. Cade, S. MacAllister.
* League leaders Leadenham Seconds came off worse in a tough at Horncastle.
A sluggish start contributed to a disjointed performance, with the team rarely finding their best form.
A silky run from one of the Horncastle forwards set up the first goal, and a second was soon added after a well-worked counter-attack.
Leadenham continued to struggle, conceding twice more before Neil Ireland finally pulled one back with a well-taken strike from the top of the D at a short corner.
Two minutes later, Leadenham’s stand-out midfielder Paul Cullen converted from close range, but the comeback was too little, too late.
Team: T. Pinchbeck (C), F. Naylor, B. Russell, I. Gray, S. Darling, D. Case, T. Adams, N. Ireland, S. Gretton, P. Cullen, J. Ireland, F. Adams, P. Case, C. Pattenden.
* Leadenham Third XI started strongly and put Long Sutton under early pressure with a series of fast breaks as the midfield linked well with the forwards.
Excellent saves denied the hosts an early lead, but the pressure finally told as skillful play saw Matt Ortyl beat the keeper with a deft flick.
This ignited the visitors and only solid defence and a committed midfield display, with Oli Down standing out, keeping Sutton at bay.
Leadenham came under huge pressure after half-time, but defended well, with debutant Matt Glasson making some excellent challenges at key moments.
A series of short corners led to an equaliser, but this galvanised Leadenham with Stan and Nick Mountain, in particular, pinning Sutton back.
Sutton threw everything forward and with 11 minutes left, an excellent shot from an impossible angle put them ahead.
But Leadenham refused to lie down, and more strong running and clever interplay sent the ball into the heart of the D where only a deliberate stop by a defender’s foot denied Stan Mountain a goal after a swift one-two with Ortyl.
The hosts were awarded a well-deserved penalty goal with less than two minutes left to secure a hard-fought 2-2 draw and extend the team’s unbeaten run to four.