Sunday 5th November will go down as a red letter day in the history of Cambridge South – the first junior matches in the club’s 80+ year history. The Girls’ U14 side were hosting St Neots and Shefford & Sandy at Long Road in the opening weekend of England Hockey’s 7-a-side Development Championship competition.
With the pitch unavailable until the afternoon, it was 1.30pm before fixtures could get underway. South were able to bring a maximum squad of ten players, with nine outfielders for six positions and a goalkeeper, and enthusiasm to play was such that we could have brought more.
Cambridge South’s first ever junior representatives assembled at 1pm, ready in their purple club playing T-shirts, dark shorts and skirts and purple socks. Juniors Secretary, Neil, was on hand to distribute pin-on shirt numbers and help the keeper with her kit while two players from our senior ladies’ teams, Dani and Lauren, had come to act as team managers, planning the formation and organising the substitutions. Club Welfare Officer, Jack, was present to do some very important bib-holding.
Also in attendance were our volunteer umpires, Laurie, Andi and Guy – who had diplomatically suggested that he umpire the game that his daughter, Charlotte, was not playing in, more in his own interests in avoiding any wrath from a wrong decision than those of impartiality I believe.
After the downpour at the previous day’s training session, we were thankfully spared any further soakings on a bright and crisp afternoon. The fixtures got underway with South taking on a very practised Shefford & Sandy side. Their familiarity and cohesion gave them a strong advantage and by half-time, the visitors had built a substantial lead against the debutant Southerners, who were still working on gelling as a team – a situation exemplified at Shandy’s first penalty corner when some confusion about roles meant none of the South defenders ran to the injected ball!
However, improvement was rapid and the second twenty minutes were a much different affair, with South competing more strongly and giving the Shandy keeper some work to do. The visitors did score another couple with some skilful individual play but South were able to reply with their first (ever!) goal, and plenty of encouragement to take away.
While Shefford & Sandy and St Neots contested the second match, also won by the strong Shandy side, the Cambridge South players took the opportunity for some team practice on the unused half of the pitch. Lauren made an unscheduled and sooner than expected return from her recent injury, and proved that it is possible to play hockey in leather calf boots, while Dani showed her usual commitment and determination in her tackles – seemingly making only a slight concession to the age of her opponents!
The final fixture of the afternoon was Cambridge South against St Neots, played with the aid of floodlights under the fading sky. South’s form continued its improvement from their previous game in a well-contested match. Both keepers were called into action and there were some great saves and clearing kicks from the Cambridge stopper. The difference between the teams was most apparent in St Neots’s sharper finishing, which saw them gradually build a lead, but the last word went to the home team, which broke through the St Neots defence to score the final goal of the afternoon.
Despite not winning, the South players greatly enjoyed their first experience playing together as a team and their very noticeable improvement over the two fixtures. Thank you to everyone who came along to play, coach, umpire and support. We look forward to more fixtures, and more Cambridge South junior teams taking to the field in the future.