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Return to East Men's Premier B at Olympic Park does not go to plan for Sudbury while Ladies' sides claim a hat-trick of wins on opening weekend

Sudbury’s return to East Men’s Premier B after a 20-year absence did not go to plan as they fell to a disappointing 4-2 defeat against Waltham Forest to continue their wait for a win at Lee Valley’s national stadium on the Olympic Park.

After pre-season preparations had gone perfectly with good friendly results against strong opposition, the appointment of a former international player-coach, and a move to twice-a-week training, Sudbury failed to adapt in the early exchanges to the water-based pitch at the Olympic Stadium. It was one they had previously played on four times, but lost on each occasion.

Veteran keeper Chris Smith was called into action in the first minute, combining well with co-captain Adam Bullock to save a penalty corner drag-flick.

Hockey Newmarket II versus Sudbury III Picture by Mark Westley. (17291207)
Hockey Newmarket II versus Sudbury III Picture by Mark Westley. (17291207)

The home side soon opened the scoring as cheap turnover in the middle of the pitch lead to a direct through-ball and deft deflection in off the far post.

The remainder of the first half was mostly one-way traffic for the visitors. However, a quick counter and interchange between the forward line saw co-captain Will Chrystal, last season’s top scorer, finish high into the goal and then a number of chances and penalty corners were won. But despite looking dangerous and hitting the post twice, a second goal was not forthcoming.

The half-time talk from coach Adnan Zakir was positive and encouraged the red-and-whites to play with dominance and belief. However, the home side scored two scrappy goals in quick succession before the game degenerated into a midfield melee with Sudbury receiving two yellow and two green cards as well as a flurry of cards for their opponents.

Hockey Newmarket II versus Sudbury III Picture by Mark Westley. (17151020)
Hockey Newmarket II versus Sudbury III Picture by Mark Westley. (17151020)

Waltham Forest then converted from a penalty corner to extend their lead before Sudbury showed their fighting spirit, exemplified by the tireless work of Dean Hodgson. They were rewarded with a further goal after a goalmouth scramble saw a penalty stroke was awarded which Bullock confidently converted, but it as too late in the game to alter the outcome.

Despite this disappointment there were lots of positives to take from their first outing at this standard and plenty to work on in training ahead of an away trip to Old Southendian on Sunday.

* Despite having selection issues to contend with, Sudbury II did get off to winning ways at a lower level following relegation, Division 4NE, beating University of East Anglia III 1-0 at Great Cornard.

The only goal of the match came from a clinical finish from Rob Spackman towards the end of the first half.

* Sudbury III opened their Division 5NE campaign with a 3-1 (Bonner 2, Steel)victory at Newmarket II, with a bare 10 outfield players and club stalwart, Mark Dudley – fresh from the second team game at Cornard – between the posts.

The visitors had led 2-0 after the first two quarters - a format Sudbury were happy to accept in the hot conditions - before stretching their lead after Newmarket pulled one back.

* Sudbury IV lost a closely-fought match at Felixstowe III 2-1 in Division 6NE(S). Sam Hoyle had leveled the scores with a good dribble and finish before the hosts got their eventual winner.

The game was also notable for the performances of Sudbury’s young players; Matt Rowe, Lenny Lancaster,Farren Kirkham and Lewis Bowers most of whom were making their debuts.

Ladies round-up:

Sudbury Ladies I made a winning start in East Women’s League Division One North, coming back from a goal down to beat Wisbech Town Ladies 4-2 at the weekend.

Wisbech opened the scoring from a quick break, but Sudbury equalised almost instantly through Ami Humphreys.

The home side settled into the game and pressed high against Wisbech, and their good momentum led to a second when a strong reverse strike from Chloe Hunnable found the target.

Player of the match Abbie Treagust showed great composure to make it 3-1 before the break, with Hunnable then grabbing her second, and Sudbury’s fourth, after the restart. A quickly-taken free hit saw Wisbech pull one back, but it was the hosts who came out on top in their season opener.

* Sudbury Ladies II were also victorious in their first game of the new season, winning 2-0 at Colchester Ladies II, in Division 3NE on Saturday.

After a goalless first half, Annabel Gardiner and Maria Risley both found the target in the second half to clinch all the points for the newly-promoted visitors.

* Sudbury Ladies III made it a clean sweep of opening-weekend wins as they beat Colchester Ladies III in Division 4NE at the weekend.

Thea Dawson and Sarah Mortan combined for Sudbury’s first goal, before Liz Spencer regained their one-goal lead.

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