Aldershot & Farnham (A&F) head coach Ian Jennings was satisfied with his side’s efforts after drawing 2-2 at Holcombe’s second team in the South East Men’s Premier Division.

“It was a really good game of hockey, and Holcombe have improved enormously from the first game,” said Jennings.

“A large part of that can be put down to the size of the club and the facilities they have, which are very impressive.

“Players are obviously attracted by what they see and experience, and there was certainly a great buzz in the clubhouse after the game.

“I think overall a draw was the right result.

“We were slow out of the blocks and found ourselves defending a penalty corner in the first 30 seconds, which Holcombe duly dispatched, and suddenly we were on the back foot.

“However, we slowly clawed our way back into it and managed to go into the break with a 2-2 scoreline.

“We changed the set up at half-time and this caused Holcombe huge problems by not letting them settle on the ball.

“If anything, we were by far the better side in the second half, and their goalkeeper had an exceptional game.”

A&F remain unbeaten since the Christmas break, and Jennings is encouraged by his side’s good form.

“So far so good,” he said.

“We will continue to push, and although it’s been made more difficult for the next couple of weeks, we will strive as we always do to plug the gaps in the side, and do the very best we can with only five games left for many of us.”

Following the half-term break, A&F travelled to face a resurgent Holcombe second team on Saturday. A&F are still unbeaten in 2024, but faced their biggest threat to that record so far as Holcombe had found solid form since their poor start to win five of their past seven games.

Holcombe’s slow start to this season came as somewhat of a surprise to the rest of their league after they finished second last season, but given the stature of the club and the fact that Holcombe’s first team is one of the top six teams in the country, it was only a matter of time before they hit their stride.

Holcombe’s start to the game was anything but slow.

While A&F were still trying to set their press, Holcombe’s centre-back was afforded too much time to pick a long ball through to their forward line, taking most of the A&F side out the game.

Although the pick up wasn’t clean, the defensive work from A&F was also untidy and Holcombe worked their subsequent overload well to draw a foul in the D and win a penalty corner.

The drag flick from the top was accurate and found the bottom left corner to put Holcombe 1-0 up early on.

A&F struggled to settle into the game and were soon facing another penalty corner after another long ball from the Holcombe defence up to their willing runners up front.

This time the flick went past the post and A&F survived. Following that let off, A&F finally started to find their rhythm. They regained their composure on the ball and were turning the ball over less frequently as a result.

This allowed them to work the ball from side to side to stretch Holcombe’s backline.

A&F have sometimes been guilty this season of failing to capitalise from dominant positions, but they were rewarded for their efforts and got back into the game.

Having won a long corner, the ball was moved from right to left and slid outside to Scott Perry. With the defence scrambling, Perry had the time and space to play the ball across the face of goal.

Phil Rushmere’s clever movement had created some separation between him and his marker which left him free to tap the inviting cross home to level the scores at 1-1.

But having worked so hard to get back into the game, A&F were then pushed back again as Holcombe played some nice passing patterns of their own. A&F were being more frantic on the ball and Holcombe capitalised, turning the ball over high up the pitch and leaving A&F scrambling.

A lapse in concentration let Holcombe in on goal and only a smart stop from Hamish Hall prevented A&F from going behind.

With the pressure building, Holcombe won a penalty corner as a ball into the D deflected up into an A&F body. The resulting drag flick squeezed its way through Hall and Holcombe were 2-1 up.

A&F picked themselves up, and dragged themselves back into the game. Their best chances were coming from crosses from the right as Stu Morhall and Paddy Craddon ran the Holcombe full-backs ragged. A penalty corner that was run down well and an inviting cross whistled across the face of goal with no one there to tap it in.

It looked like A&F would be going into half-time a goal down. With time running out, however, Perry again found space on the left. This time his direct run drew a number of fouls in the D. Advantage was played and where the home team switched off, Perry found space to shoot.

The keeper saved well, but Rushmere was alert to the situation and turned in the rebound on his reverse to make it 2-2 at half-time.

A&F made some half-time adjustments to the press to reduce the time Holcombe’s defenders had to distribute the ball, and the early indications were that the changes would prove effective as the number of dangerous long balls were drastically reduced and unforced errors started to creep in.

With the press now bringing more success, A&F started the second half on the front foot. But the next goal was eluding them thanks to some good saves from the Holcombe goalkeeper at penalty corners.

Holcombe showed their obvious quality to carve out some chance too, but A&F’s backline, and Hall in particular, were equal to the challenge as they turned away the chances.

As the game headed towards the final whistle, A&F were beginning to turn the ball over cheaply again and invite Holcombe to attack.

However, A&F continued to stand firm to repel the last few attacks and ensure the score remained 2-2 as time expired.

Kevin McCafferty