Rutland open up a four point lead at the top

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Rutland 1st 3 Rutland 2nd 1

Rutland 1st 4 Cambridge South 1st 1

RUTLAND Hockey Club’s Men’s 1st team have opened up a four point lead at the top of the East League’s 3NW Division with two crucial victories last weekend.

In what could turn out to a season-defining weekend, they beat the club’s own 2nd team, who were only six points behind at the start of play on Saturday, and second-placed Cambridge South on Sunday.

The Cambridge side had been unbeaten before Sunday’s game which Rutland won 4-1, following on from a 3-1 derby-day victory 24 hours earlier.

The much-awaited game between the Rutland sides began with the first team playing the ball with purpose and accuracy, taking the game to the seconds and eventually the breakthrough came when Ollie Browne deftly lifted the ball over the keeper.

Rutland 1sts maintained the pressure, forging a second, again from Browne, and it looked as though the young first team would run away with it, but some dogged defence and tremendous saves from Mark Johnstone in goal denied them.

Gradually the seconds began to breakdown the first team play and counter, resulting in several short corners which were well kept out by Dean Armstrong to keep the score at 2-0 at half time.

Early in the second half the seconds made their breakthrough with Gareth Clarke reducing the deficit.

The seconds now put the 1st XI under sustained pressure but as legs tired, the firsts countered and sealed the game in the final five minutes, when Scott Perry played in Pete Comben to score with a first time strike from a narrow angle that left Johnstone little chance in the seconds’ goal.

On Sunday, Rutland faced a Cambridge South side that packed their defence and although Rutland were playing in Cambridge’s half, they struggled to break the deadlock.

Eventually, as he was falling over, Ollie Browne lifted the ball over the keeper to give Rutland the slimmest possible half-time lead.

Harry Robertson came on at centre half after the break and started to create pacey attacks which opened up gaps in the Cambridge defence.

Ben Harford doubled Rutland’s advantage from a short corner and Louis Scarrot made it three, scoring a great drag flick short corner. Cambridge increasingly relied on breakaways and pulled one goal back but Rutland had restored their three goal lead within minutes. Jordan Allen came in from the left to score the fourth.

It was another excellent performance from Rutland, who are now in a great position to go on and win promotion.