Honours even in derby as Luton held by Blueharts IIs
Five of Luton Town Hockey Club's teams were in action over the weekend with the pick of the ties a local derby clash for the ladies' 1st team.
They travelled to Hitchin to face rivals Blueharts 2nds on Saturday as Luton struggled to get into their flow early on, with the back four having to absorb significant pressure from the Blueharts forwards.
The visitors consequently had not got into their stride at all when Blueharts scored first, a cheeky reverse-stick lob that somehow found its way into the back of the net.
This seemed to wake Luton from their slumber as they started to assert pressure themselves, with Beth Carlisle causing the defence real difficulties with her impressive runs into the circle.
It was Suzanne Starkey, however, that pulled the scores level from a reverse sweep.
With all Carlisle’s efforts it was deservedly her who put the visitors ahead shortly afterwards, somehow sneaking the ball past the keeper’s near post after another mazy run.
Luton were lucky to hold their lead into half-time when in a moment more reminiscent of Pinball Wizard saw a Blueharts shot ricocheting off two Luton sticks, before firmly striking goalkeeper Shannon Smith’s helmet and pinging onto the bottom of the crossbar, finally being cleared by a defender.
Luton’s relief was evident as they went into the break boasting a 2-1 advantage.
The second half continued in much the same vein, with both teams having chances.
But it was Blueharts who, after stealing the ball in midfield, found themselves with an overload as all the Luton players apart from a couple of their defenders seemed to have vanished from the pitch.
Blueharts used it to good effect and a simple pass across the goal left it virtually impossible for them to do anything but draw level at 2-2.
In a match where Luton’s performance was certainly not at its best, there were certainly plenty of positives to take away from the clash.
Kerri Stinton fought hard in midfield, Carlisle continued to demonstrate her attacking promise, and teenage first-team debutant Tara Clancy excelled at left defence, making some crucial tackles and distributing the ball well.
It was, however, Luiza Uziello who claimed the player-of-the-match award for the first time, after her determined and significant contribution to the game.
The Luton Town Ladies’ 2nds hosted Letchworth 5ths.
Although the visitors were able to attack on a few occasions and get past the defence to force a few saves from the home keeper, Luton were able to put together some impressive teamwork and accurate passing throughout the ranks to win the game with five goals from five different goal scorers.
First-half goals came from Lauren Walmsley, Helen Beattie and Leah O’Shaughnessey, while second-period tallies came from youngsters Emma Halsey and Claire Clancey – their first each for the senior team.
With everyone playing so well, votes for player-of-the-match were tough but went to Emma Halsey and Leah O’ Shaughnessy.
The 1sts lost at home to Berkhamsted 2-1, with the IIs away to Blueharts IIIs, but even with goals from Matt Dobson in the first-half and John Hathaway in the second, they lost 6-2.
The IIIs expected a victory away to struggling Rickmansworth, but found the hosts in fine scoring form, although after going behind Luton hit back with goals from Carter Bright, Chris May and Benn Waller.
The visitors looked to be cruising but two quick-fire goals before the interval pulled Rickmansworth level before the hosts scored another fast brace of goals in the early stages of the second-half to put Town in turmoil.
Luton held on and staged an impressive comeback with a smart goal from a short corner to half the deficit before skipper Dean Pierce fired Carter Bright clear to unleash a stunning effort from an acute angle to level the scores at 5-5.
Man-of-the-match was Chris May who impressed after three months away.