PICTURES: Plymouth Marjon boosted by win over Firebrands
HEATHER DIXON'S Plymouth Marjon head into the Christmas break buoyed by a crucial 1-0 West Clubs Women's Hockey League Premier One win over Bristol club Firebrands.
Plymouth's second half winner was an own goal but enough to ensure the Reds claimed their third league win of the season and edged three points further clear of the basement heading into the mid-season midwinter break.
Plymouth – who have a game in hand – are ninth at the halfway point of the season, three points clear of Firebrands 2, who slipped to second from bottom following Saturday's defeat at UCP Marjon.
The win also keeps Plymouth two points ahead of fast-improving Exe 2, who claimed their second win in three unbeaten games by beating sixth-placed Yate 2-1.
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However, Plymouth have won three of their four home league matches so far this term – and their next three Premier One games are all at UCP Marjon.
Plymouth return to league action against fourth-placed Team Bath Buccaneers on Saturday, January 5, host second-placed Clifton 2 on January 12 and Bournemouth in a rescheduled match on Sunday, January 13.
There were no South Division League games although availability-hit Mannamead – without key central players Tamsin Whittaker and Charlotte Bates – were beaten 4-1 by Plymouth University despite taking a 1-0 half-time lead through midfielder Chrissie Bassett.
Mannamead skipper Naomi Issitt – the Greens' best player against the University – will be hoping to have a full strength squad available for next Saturday's rescheduled league match at home to Okehampton (RMB Stonehouse 10.30am).
Unbeaten Plym Valley 2 top Trelawney 2 by two points heading into the winter break following a 5-0 home win over Caradon 3 and goals for skipper Sarah Robertson (4) and Llinos Jones.
Caradon 2 stay second following a 6-0 home win over Launceston, while Plymouth University 2 opened up a four point gap over Plymouth Marjon 3 following their 4-2 cross-city derby win over their mid-table rivals at Lipson.
In the men's regional Davis Wood Hockey League Premiership, Plymouth Marjon drew 1-1 at basement side ECV Hornets despite taking a 1-0 lead through George Bissett, who also had an effort ruled out.
Plymouth – with skipper Simon Fenwick outstanding in a new central midfield role - played some fine passing hockey, but failed to capitalise on their domination.
Still unbeaten away from home, head coach Jamie Oxley was as frustrated as his players not to have secured all three points.
Oxley said: "We were without Jamie Hill and the injured Matt Bell and Rhys Hart, which did not help our attacking options."
Plymouth are joint sixth with Bristol University ahead of their last league match of 2012, at eighth-placed Swindon next Saturday.
It is as-you-were in the Conference South top six as leaders Isca A beat fifth-placed Plymouth Marjon A 6-0, second-placed Plymouth University drew 1-1 with fourth-placed University of Exeter D and third-placed PGSOB drew 2-2 with sixth-placed ECV Hornets A.
Lloyd Milburn and Sam Knapman scored for PGs who conceded a last minute penalty flick, scored by their visitors with 30 seconds left on the game clock.
In the two crucial top of the table Southern 1 games, leaders OPMs drew 2-2 with fourth-placed Truro A, while second placed Penzance won 4-1 at third-placed East Devon.
Stuart Bennett and Ben Lock scored for OPMs.