Rutland Hockey Club’s men’s team slipped from second to fourth in the table following their first defeat of the season on Saturday.
An understrength Rutland side lost 4-2 at home to third-placed Newmarket with several players either away or ill, and they got off to a disastrous start, conceding three goals in the first 20 minutes - all from a failure to deal with long balls, which led to quick counter attacks.
The home side, as ever, launched numerous attacks of their own but too often a Rutland player held on to the ball to lose possession.
Eventually Ben Harford scored a superb drag flick from a short corner to pull one back.
With half-time approaching it looked as though Rutland would get further back in the game, unfortunately Harford’s flick hit the post and Rutland went in at half time 3-1 down.
Rutland piled on pressure after the break but were caught again with a break to find themselves three goals down once more.
From then on it was all Rutland. Twice Newmarket cleared off the line, and short corners came and went as shot after shot was saved or went wide before Rutland worked a beautiful passing move upfield for Will Astbury to finish.
This game sadly was lost in the first half and Rutland were left to rue what might and should, have been, as they suffered their first League defeat of the season.
Rutland: Luke Hardy, Harry Robertson, Richard Pollock, James Meadows, Jo Chedd, Tom Wilson, Ben Harford, Marcus Parsons, Alex Imperial, Will Astbury, Thomas MacDonald, Jimmy Dodworth.
Rutland bounced back a day later, beating Alford 4-2 in the first round of the National Vase Competition.
Rutland took the bold decision to field several players even younger than their usual youthful side with Laurence Sidwell, Jules Brahmachari and Mark Pollock all debuting.
However, far from being out of their depth, they proved more than capable at playing at this level.
Rutland found acres of space early on, allowing Marcus Parsons and Ben Harford to cut through from midfeld but for all the attacking play and chances Rutland struggled to find the net.
Eventually Ben Harford scored with a low drag flick from a short corner to put Rutland ahead.
Rutland created more chances in the second half with Jo Chedd finally doubling their lead. This was soon followed up by a second for Chedd and Jordan Allen added Rutland’s fourth to ensure a comfortable victory despite a late second goal for Alford.
Rutland: Oli Carrick, Jimmy Dodworth, Freddie Cracknell, James Meadows, Jo Chedd, Tom Wilson, Marcus Parsons, Ben Harford, Jordan Allen, Will Astbury, Laurence Sidwell, Thomas Macdonald, Jules Brahmacharu, Mark Pollock.
Rutland’s men travel to play Alford in the league on Saturday.