Aldershot & Farnham (A&F) head coach Ian Jennings was happy with his side’s efforts after they won 4-3 at Horsham in the South East Men’s Premier Division.

The win was the perfect start to the second half of the season for A&F after the Christmas break.

“I was very happy given the fact we were players down through injury and unavailability,” said Jennings.

“To go down to Horsham with only 12 players and win – bearing in mind we lost both times to them last season – was no mean feat.

“It never ceases to amaze me that despite how many players are missing and the positions they play in, our patterns, commitment, team ethos and discipline remain, on the whole, outstanding.

“The younger players in our side are truly developing into quality hockey players, and whichever university they end up at next season I’m sure they will continue to flourish – as long as they remain focused and don’t get into bad habits.”

A&F are currently fifth in the league table, and Jennings wants his side to keep pushing the teams above.

“We will continue to be as professional as we can until the final whistle of the final game, and then I guess it’s decision time for everyone,” said Jennings.

“Our aim is to always be the best we possibly can. It’s been an incredible journey and we have achieved an extraordinary amount with five promotions already under our belt in this our seventh season together.

“I feel enormously proud of our success, and it would be a fantastic achievement to finish in the top three but perhaps that might just be a bridge too far.

“All I know is that as with every team I have ever coached, we will always do the very best we can and with this group of players I know that comes with no compromises or excuses.

“What people perhaps from the outside don’t appreciate, is that this kind of mentality doesn’t just happen.

“It’s as a result of a lot of hard work, commitment, a desire to be the best you possibly can be, and an understanding of how important being part of a team is.”

A&F began the second half of the season looking to do the double over Horsham.

A&F were without a number of players for the first game back after Christmas, and they struggled to find rhythm in the chilly conditions. Horsham took full advantage of A&F’s sloppiness and broke the deadlock early on, working their way past A&F’s cobbled together defensive penalty corner unit.

A&F managed to go back to basics and keep their play simple, allowing them to execute their patterns and build back into the game.

They were helped by poor discipline from Horsham, who earned themselves a green card for not retreating five – despite an early let off for the same infringement.

With the foothold established, A&F came roaring back into the game. They played themselves out of the back well, before drawing a foul in the opposition D to win their first penalty corner.

From this, Scott Perry got them back on level terms with a drag flick high into the net from A&F’s first short corner.

Perry then utilised a long aerial over the top to launch Paddy Craddon free behind the Horsham defence.

Craddon used his pace well to eliminate the chasing defender and draw a long corner. A&F worked their way into the D from this as a well threaded ball from Will Caine found Joe Whelan, and although what followed wasn’t particularly pretty hockey, it was effective, as the ensuing scramble caused the ball to pop out to Stu Morhall who lashed the ball home on the volley to give A&F the lead.

Horsham changed their press to be more aggressive, looking to go man for man with three forwards on A&F’s three defenders at all times, hoping to prevent A&F playing out from the back.

However, the A&F backline stayed calm. They made their way out down the left-hand side, eliminating the Horsham forward line and creating an overload.

With the space in the midfield, A&F sprung forward and Sam Pedrick found himself in space. Pedrick’s shot was well saved, but Phil Rushmere slammed the ball home emphatically to give A&F a 3-1 lead.

The two-goal cushion wouldn’t be held for long, though. The high press forced A&F into more mistakes and Horsham looked dangerous on the counter.

A&F were holding on with some last-ditch defending, but the pressure eventually paid off. Horsham won a penalty corner, and the initial flick was saved on the line by Kevin McCafferty. However, the ball fell nicely to a Horsham forward on the rebound to unleash a powerful volley to make it 3-2.

The first half ended with another penalty corner for Horsham which saw one of their players sent to the sin bin for dissent. This time A&F’s defence was equal to the routine and it remained 3-2 to A&F at half-time.

A&F came back out for the second half determined to see the game out. The game by this point had also turned physical and fraught.

Horsham were desperate to get back on level terms, but were beginning to lose their discipline and take it out on the umpires. Wild tackles were flying in and it was suiting Horsham more than A&F.

Horsham seized on this and dragged themselves level through a third penalty corner goal, won on the counter after A&F’s own penalty corner broke down. Another scrappy move from Horsham broke down at the top of the D, but a precise, low reverse hit found its way through the smallest gap in A&F’s defensive set up to make it 3-3.

A&F were playing well enough to grab another, but clearcut chances were tough to come by. But in the end the goal came in the simplest of ways.

Having been camped in Horsham’s half, one wild tackle too many led to an A&F free-hit and a Horsham card.

Perry stood over the ball and waltzed his way into the D unchallenged, before delicately lifting the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the net to restore A&F’s lead and make it 4-3.

Horsham, and their boisterous home support, then lost all discipline. Another card followed as their robust style of play hampered their efforts to get back into the game. A&F defended superbly as more last-ditch defending prevented clear sights of goal.

Horsham had a last chance to salvage a point with a late penalty corner, however A&F held firm once more to see out the 4-3 win.

Kevin McCafferty