The Rutland Horseshoes continued their unbeaten start to the season in the Leicestershire and Rutland Mixed hockey League Div One with two hard fought victories over fierce rivals in the last week, beating Loughborough Carillian A 4-3 and then claiming a 2-1 victory at home to Market Harborough A
Fielding almost two different teams due to work commitments the Horseshoes played two of the top teams in the leading mixed hockey division in the East midlands and came away with all six points.
Having beaten Loughborough B 10-0 on the opening day of the season playing their first team was always going to be a tougher challenge for Rutland. This was made more so by the unavailability of influential captain Phil Ash and the ever young veteran Tim Sweet. The squad was however boosted by the return of dynamic midfielder Wes Durston for his first game of the season.
Rutland knew they had to start the game well and gain a lead as two key players would have to leave the pitch, due to the needs of work, twenty minutes before the end of the game. Going one nil down after forty five seconds without a single Horseshoe touching the ball certainly wasn’t the start hoped for.
As a young and talented Loughborough side looked to take advantage of their early success the Rutland defence and midfield showed amazing determination and defensive durability to hold on and then step by step begin to dominate the pace of the game.
Chris Meadows, up front, ably assisted Alex on her first start for the Horseshoes this season tormenting the opposition right back, were brought increasingly into the game. A fine reverse hit from the top of the D and a powerful stroke into the bottom corner from a short corner from Meadows meant that Rutland deservedly led 2-1 at half time.
Rutland dominated the early exchanges of the second half marching into a 4-1 lead with Meadows securing his second hat-trick of the season and setting up Durston for the fourth goal. However as Rutland’s numbers were reduced with twenty minutes to go, only by one thanks to club secretary Tracey Taylor coming on to make her season debut, Loughborough’s numerical superiority began to pay.
The Rutland defence held out against waves of attack for 15 minutes before conceding two goals in the last five minutes, an own goal and a well-timed chip with goalkeeper Neil Moverley marooned on the floor having pulled of a double save. The last two minutes were tense but Rutland held on for a deserved victory.
To follow this fine victory Rutland Horseshoes took on old rivals Market Harborough A with eight changes to the team that beat Loughborough, demonstrating early season strength in depth.
Rutland made a far better start to this game and despite the prolific Meadows being man marked by two players, Rutland had the best of the first half going in 1-0 up thanks to a powerful run by Richard Pollock and a trademark first time finish at the back post by Carina Stevens.
Early in the second half James Frost was given ten minutes in the sin bin following a collision with Harborough’s centre midfielder.
Rutland defended stoutly as Harborough pushed forward, with Kevin Stanton King and Clare Spencer chasing down attacks across the back line. As Frost returned to the pitch Harborough finally broke through with a goal mouth scramble resulting in the ball spinning across the line in the far corner with goalkeeper and defence stranded.
Rutland were re-energised by this levelling of the scores and poured forward leaving themselves vulnerable to the counter attack, one such Harborough counter seemed destined to end in a goal and was only thwarted by three consecutive saves on the line by Moverley, Sam Raybould and Phil Ash.
These saves proved critical as just before the final whistle Richard Pollock scored the winner from a set piece.