Aldershot & Farnham (A&F) head coach Ian Jennings was pleased with his side’s mindset after they beat Holcombe’s second team 5-2 in the South East Men’s Premier Division.

Holcombe’s second team were runners-up in the league last season but had endured a tough start to the season – taking only three points from their first five games – and A&F were keen to take full advantage of their struggles.

Jennings admitted he was surprised by Holcombe’s struggles, but was pleased with his own side’s performance as they picked up the three points.

“I think everyone has been surprised by Holcombe’s early results this season and it’s something I highlighted to the guys to not be fooled by when there could have been a number of reasons why they seem to be in a bit of a slump,” said Jennings.

“Having spoken to some of their players it would appear they’ve lost eight players to other sides that are perhaps offering them greater incentives. What we needed to do was approach the game with the same mindset as last season and to focus on the controllables and work hard on the things we’ve been doing in training – and I was delighted with aspects of our play.”

Jennings was also pleased with the character of his side after they came back from falling 1-0 behind early on.

“Make no mistake, this was a quality side we were up against with a number of extremely good players at their disposal,” said Jennings.

“Early indications were clear that they were here to gain revenge on the side that denied them any chance of winning the league last year when we carved out a 1-1 draw at their place despite being a number of senior players short. It was against the run of play when we went a goal down and our keeper will be disappointed with the penalty corner goal they scored.

“However, we kept to the game plan and some of our movement through the lines was outstanding and it was only going to be a matter of time before we were on the scoresheet.”

The win kept the Shots in fourth place in the league table – and while Jennings is satisfied enough he believes his team will get better as the season progresses.

“I’m almost smiling at the things we are doing, and the relentless repetition of training exercises in areas we are finding ourselves in so many times during the game is paying off,” said Jennings.

“I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get better and better as there are still opportunities we are missing with either the final execution of the pass or our decision making when someone is clearly in a better position to score than the ball carrier is.

“As for where we sit in the league, I’m okay with it at the moment and a lot of what we are able to achieve this season will be down to availability.

“If I have everyone at my disposal then I think we are competitive with everyone in this league. We still have two of the teams above us to play before Christmas. We are traditionally stronger in the second half of the season as the emphasis on training, tactics and fitness continues to be pushed where others perhaps make different decisions.”

Holcombe started the game strongly and were keen to show why they performed so well last season.

They were looking to work the ball through their strong spine down the middle of the park to high forwards to negate A&F’s strong midfield.

This led to Holcombe taking the lead as the long outlet found the high forward. From this, Holcombe won a penalty corner and the disguised flick beat Hamish Hall and A&F found themselves behind.

A&F settled well after this and began to play their patterns and put pressure on Holcombe. They were working through their own lines and finding joy down the the sidelines and around the back of Holcombe’s defence.

This allowed A&F to pick up a penalty corner of their own as Joe Whelan was fouled driving into the D and Scott Perry flicked into the right corner to equalise.

A&F were now flowing forward and initiating high transfers, and created good chances from open play which were being squandered. Even when they won penalty corners, the opposing goalkeeper prevented A&F going ahead as he pulled off a number of good saves from Perry’s drag flicks.

But there was nothing he could do to stop A&F taking the lead after Holcombe’s scrambling defence conceded a long corner. Chris Boot took it quickly, finding Perry outside the D. He rolled his defender and shot powerfully on his reverse into the far corner.

Despite A&F’s dominance, their one-goal lead was precarious. Holcombe still posed a threat on the break and took a leaf out of A&F’s book by rolling the ball out wide and working around the back of A&F’s defence.

A stick tackle as the forward entered the D gave Holcombe a penalty corner and the drag flick found its mark as Holcombe drew level on the stroke of half-time.

A&F knew they would get chances in the second half as Holcombe were tiring and losing their discipline.

But A&F’s struggles in front of goal were still on show as their forward line were unable to apply the finishing touches to some good balls into the D from the midfield. That was until Jamie Weston took it upon himself to show the forwards how it’s done. Perry worked infield from the left wing and delivered a wonderful ball towards the back post. Weston timed his run to perfection, arriving late from midfield to divert the ball in and restore A&F’s lead.

This caused Holcombe’s discipline to go completely as they bemoaned every decision and struggled to keep 11 players on the pitch.

A&F took full advantage of this and created a number of good chances which weren’t converted before Perry completed his hat-trick with another powerful drag flick.

A&F were so dominant that Holcombe were limited to a few half chances and one further penalty corner which Hall dealt with. Frustrations were boiling over for Holcombe, who lost a player to the sin bin for dissent, and A&F pounced again in the dying moments of the game.

Holcombe were caught in possession following an advantage played after a poor tackle from Perry.

The ball was moved out to the right and Stu Morhall drove along the baseline, riding more bad tackles.

Morhall’s lifted cross found Josh Frost to fire over the keeper and into the net to seal a 5-2 win for A&F. After the goal, Perry saw green for his tackle and he was followed to the sideline by Holcombe’s midfielder – who saw yellow for their own late challenge.

Kevin McCafferty