Aldershot & Farnham (A&F) head coach Ian Jennings was delighted with his side’s efforts after they comprehensively thrashed bottom side Lewes 8-0 in the South East Men’s Premier Division.

The Shots returned to winning ways in fine style after drawing their previous league game, and gave their goal difference a boost in the process.

“I was very pleased with how we went about our task,” said Jennings. “In the pre-game talk I stressed the importance of making sure we kept our concentration levels as high as possible, especially as we knew the guys were going to have to put in a huge shift physically because of us only having the bare 11.

“We really wanted to go into the half-term break with a victory to keep up the pressure on the teams above.

“Our consistency over the past few games has been of a very high standard, and despite the scoreline we continued to be very disciplined and played through the lines using our much-practised moves.”

Jennings did see some room for improvement for his side in a couple of areas, though.

“We went through a phase of turning the ball over a little too much, and despite scoring eight it probably should have been well into double figures,” said Jennings. “When we play the better sides, we will have to be more clinical in front of goal as the chances might not come in the numbers we experienced on Saturday.”

A&F took on struggling Lewes on Saturday as they aimed to continue their unbeaten start to 2024.

A&F entered the game with a few key players missing, meaning they only had the bare 11 to face Lewes.

Despite not having any substitutes, A&F were asked to maintain their fast-flowing style of hockey to prevent Lewes from getting any kind of foothold in the game.

A&F obliged and started the game well. They were given the freedom to move the ball as Lewes sat back in an attempt to contain A&F.

In recent games when faced with teams sitting in a low block, A&F have struggled to break the opposition down. But they had no such issues on Saturday as they made plenty of entries into Lewes’ D.

It was inevitable that A&F would break the deadlock.

A high transfer through the midfield set Stu Morhall along the baseline. His pass across goal found the unmarked Archie Smith, who let the ball roll across him to open up space for a reverse-stick shot which rattled the backboard to give A&F a deserved lead.

Building on their early lead, A&F continued to create chances and won their first penalty corner. Scott Perry was denied from the set piece by a smart save high to the goalkeeper’s left.

Lewes had to search for a way back into the game, but they were turning the ball over often to A&F’s press.

Limited to aerials to try to break the press, Lewes very nearly found themselves level as a long aerial caught A&F high up the pitch and found a forward in the D, but Hamish Hall was equal to the attempted lob and A&F cleared.

With that scare survived, A&F hit their stride. With the continued pressure, A&F won a second penalty corner, and this time Perry wouldn’t be denied as he powered a drag flick into the bottom left corner to double A&F’s lead.

More good work down the right from Morhall created confusion as Lewes failed to deal with his cross.

Smith picked up the loose ball and showed superb composure to roll the onrushing goalkeeper to double his tally and put A&F 3-0 up.

Smith then turned provider as A&F flowed forward down the left and Perry found himself released and running at the Lewes backline with intent. His slipped pass found Smith in the D. Smith controlled, turned, and fed Daan Barron, arriving late at the top of the D. His shot found the bottom corner and A&F were 4-0 up as the first half ended.

A&F continued to attack relentlessly after the break.

Barron was pulling the strings and cutting Lewes open with ease. After another counter was snuffed out, Barron countered down the right and threaded a ball through the smallest of gaps to Perry.

Another purposeful drive towards the Lewes D drew defender after defender. This allowed Perry to find Jonny Groves unmarked at the back post to finish a classy move and put A&F 5-0 up.

A&F’s sixth of the afternoon followed impeccable link-up play between Barron and Perry down the A&F left.

Barron let Perry loose down the left. As the defence collapsed on him, Perry played a neat reverse pass back to Barron and charged along the baseline. Perry received the ball back and was in behind the Lewes defence. A neat touch allowed him to finish at the near post to double his tally for the match.

A&F weren’t done there and admirably kept the high tempo interplay despite having no substitutes available. With Perry now being double marked by Lewes, the screens of Barron and Joe Whelan had all the time and space in the world to torment the visitors.

When Whelan was picked out at the top of the D, he had time to shoot for the back post. His shot was instinctively deflected by Phil Rushmere into the path of Groves to apply the finishing touches to make it 7-0 to A&F.

Groves completed his hat-trick shortly afterwards. Barron went long and direct with his distribution, delivering the ball into the D for Groves, who had lost his defender and was unmarked. The opposing goalkeeper came flying out to intercept, but a clever touch allowed Groves to round the goalkeeper and put away his third and A&F’s eighth.

After the eighth, fatigue started to set in, and A&F nearly conceded a soft goal from a number of sloppy turnovers as Lewes pushed higher and higher for a consolation.

A&F shook off the slight wobble to finish the game strongly, with only some fine saves from the opposing goalkeeper preventing A&F from hitting double figures as the game finished 8-0.

A&F will welcome back some key components of their squad for their next league game away at Holcombe on Saturday, February 24.

Kevin McCafferty