Holcombe 3-2 Sevenoaks
Holcombe 3-2 Sevenoaks

The first Kent derby of the season saw Holcombe welcome newly promoted Sevenoaks to Holcombe Park on Saturday evening.

Following last weekend’s opening round loss to Beeston, the home side welcomed back Dan Fox into the heart of defence as they looked to pick up their first points of the campaign.

The visitors, having played an additional game on opening weekend, came into the contest after consecutive losses to a strong Reading side and League Champions Surbiton.

A packed and vocal crowd saw Holcombe immediately dominate the opening exchanges, forcing the visitors deep into their own half. Moving the ball around at pace, Holcombe began to create considerable space around the attacking circle and saw an early warning shot flash over the bar.

Just 6 minutes into the match however and Holcombe had the early breakthrough they had been threatening. A driving run from Barry Middleton along the baseline opened up the heart of the Sevenoaks defence and his ball across the face of goal found its way through the crowd of players to allow Nick Bandurak to open the scoring at the back post.

Holcombe continued to threaten and were rewarded just seven minutes later. A powerful penalty corner from Rob Field hammered into the backboard to double the advantage for the home team. As the half wore on, Holcombe began to create more opportunities as they opened up the Sevenoaks defence on numerous occasions.

After a defence-splitting pass from Dan Webster, Nick Bandurak saw his chip over the on-rushing Richard Potton in the Sevenoaks goal just fall the wrong side of the near post as the home side threatened to run away with the contest before half-time.

Some strong defensive work from Mo Mea helped to keep the visitors at bay throughout the first period as the home side went into the interval with George Pinner largely untroubled.

The second half saw Sevenoaks return with a renewed sense of optimism that resulted in a far more expansive and open attacking threat. Inevitably, the additional space across their defensive line lead to Holcombe committing numbers forward in search of a deciding goal as the game threatened to completely open-up.

Dan Webster proved a constant thorn in the Sevenoaks defence, creating multiple turnovers in midfield and exploiting opportunities for the Holcombe front line. Once again, a plethora of chances went begging as the home side failed to put the game to bed.

With just over 20 minutes to play, Sevenoaks were level through controversial circumstances. A swing-and-miss from Mike Barber to a ball played into the Holcombe circle saw him clash sticks with Ali Bray from the Holcombe back-line as the ball rolled into the goal. The subsequent celebrations led to the goal being awarded and Sevenoaks had a foothold in the contest.

The game continued to be an expansive affair as Holcombe continued to falter in front of goal as backhand strikes from Bandurak, Field and Ames all failed to find the back of the net.

With just 10 minutes to play however they finally got their breakthrough. An aerial ball from the returning Dan Fox put through Nick Bandurak who earned a penalty corner that he subsequently converted to restore the home side’s 2-goal cushion.

With an increasingly exuberant crowd, Sevenoaks rallied to score just three minutes later through a penalty corner of their own from specialist Andrew Ross.

There was still time in the final minutes for Dan Webster to be denied by a stunning goal-line clearance with the goal at his mercy and Barry Middleton to be denied by Potton after an outrageous piece of skill to control an aerial from close range at the top of the Sevenoaks circle.

After dominating proceedings and threatening to run away with the game, Holcombe were left to rue missed opportunities as newly-promoted Sevenoaks fought to the end in a closely contested thriller at Holcombe Park.

Picture supplied by Grout Photography.