South Berkshire Terriers fell to defeat in their first league game of the season as Reading Rovers took a 2-0 victory at Cantley Park, but there was little room for disappointment after a composed performance which saw a dominant 2nd half display that failed to reap the reward of goals that it deserved.
Pre-season injuries took their toll for the Terriers, with 8 players unavailable meaning last minute call ups for two u16 colts to make their Terriers debut. Both Ollie Russell and Ryan Dixon can take plenty of positives from their first game of adult hockey, and they visibly grew in confidence as the game progressed.
It was Reading who began the game strongest, as the Terriers took a while to settle and Reading used their experience to create three good chances down the right wing, with through balls threaded into space to ensure Jake Rouse was busy in goal, coming off his line to close down three times when a one on one threatened. However, when the first game came it was a Terriers error that gifted Reading the opener. Looking to build from the back a stray pass was eagerly intercepted by a lurking Reading forward who didn't waste the chance from the top of the D.
Despite the set back, there were positives to take from the first half, and the Terriers were quickly into their stride in the 2nd half. Of the youngsters, Jack Barker roamed with menace down the right wing - only the final pass was missing after a number of lovely, tricky runs. Behind him, Alexander O'Keeffe gave another composed display in defence as he continued to build on a strong pre-season. Both debutants also put in excellent displays in the second half. Ollie Russell played with composure, recycling the ball and adapting his positioning well to ensure Reading's dangerous right winger had few chances to get behind the Terriers defence. Up front, Ryan Dixon was playing sensible, confident Terriers hockey. He worked hard across the line to create space, and when the ball came his way he was excellent at retaining possession and moving the ball on to supporting midfielders.
For all the positives in individual and team performance, the only frustration was that the Terriers couldn't convert pressure into a deserved equaliser. Ash Stratton and Tony Heaver worked tirelessly, offering up out balls to the defence and proving pivotal to some quick breaks. But in front of goal, it was not going to be the Terriers day. Paul Harvey was inches away from steering in a driven ball in from five yards out, and also saw two opportunities from penalty corners saved. His was not the only chance from set pieces, as David Murray and Neil Badley also saw a scrambling Reading defence hold out after penalty corners. James Romain was also unlucky not to get a clear cut chance after some excellent work in the 2nd half to create space.
However, it was Reading who had the last word, as with the final touch of the game a quick break saw the ball break into the Terriers D, and a fortunate ricochet off a Terriers player saw Jake Rouse in goal marooned and Reading had a simple tap in from a few yards out into an open goal. 2-0 felt a harsh result for the Terriers, after great endeavour and patient but quick hockey throughout the 2nd half. There is no doubt, if they can continue to play their style of hockey, goals and wins will come for Terriers this season. Next up, a long trip for a first visit to play the Aylesbury and Tring development side.