Time passes. Tick tock. Tick tock.
I knew this better than most. I felt it in my bones, they ached with desire, with the need to succeed, with a burning passion that could not be quenched. For it had been too long: too long since I’d heard the sweet slap of ball on hard backboard. I needed to score.
There was a time at some point in the distant past, under a different captain and in a different league, when I was ‘dreamy Harry’. People would stand in silent awe as I walked out on to the pitch. People would lament my upright, forthright hockey style, the way I ducked and dived in the midfield. Indeed some of the M2s and M3s can still be caught on a Saturday night, foot on table, regaling to newcomers and the old guard alike the great tales of my most illustrious past. ‘Jan loved him.’ ‘Do you remember when Harry…?’ ‘God, he has such great chat.’ There was even talk of a guard of honour for my final game for the M2s but those rumours were never substantiated. At least, much like those rumours about Matt Kenzie, the M2s show their gratitude strictly off the pitch.
But those days are long gone. Eight games have gone past, the whole of the 2018-2019 season to date, and not a goal in sight. All day I bend the weather to my will, keeping Cambridgeshire safe from regional flood warnings, and now this dry spell has spilled over into my private life. My will is too strong sometimes! If only the ball would succumb to my desires like my weather-based powers. There have been chances; last weekend against Kettering I came close, a strong flick into the keeper only to be defied by…his presence. Maybe today my fortunes will change.
Time passes. Tick tock. Tick tock.
So the minute hand hit twelve and we began. City of Peterborough 3s fielded a strong eleven with plenty of young legs standing before a more experienced backline. I was nervous - could today be the day? Could today break my annual deficit? Like a cherry atop a mountain of whipped cream and coconut ice cream, ready to be popped into my open mouth. The game progressed much as Captain Stu and I had planned: we mounted pressure and had the majority of the ball in the first half. Joel, relinquishing his defensive role to make way for Tom K, who, feeling the pressure in the midfield, was keen to find the safety of the sideline to secure himself against on the pitch. The only slight hiccup being a conceded penalty corner quite early on, which put us on the back foot. I thought about my half-time talk and ran over all three key points I wanted to make. Sam and James maintained a strong presence in the middle of the pitch and Harry Lewis did his best to right that Peterborough wrong.
However, it wasn’t until the second half when I got my chance. After a period of consistent chances from the surprisingly handsome frontline - Owen, Jim and Oli showing spells of clarity to get behind the defence - the ball penetrated the D following some nice fluid passing between myself, James and Dave. Jim stood at the back post but somehow the ball fell to my feet three metres in front of goal.
Time stopped. Tick.
Nightmares from last week’s near miss filled my mind. Could this be Kettering all over again? Other recurring nightmares fleeted past my mind’s eye. I imagined Tom Ann’s standing over me, holding a McDonalds in one hand and a toilet roll in the other – this was pre-game! I imagined being locked in a small room with a recording of Dave Aston’s dad puns. I imagined me re-telling a story about how I scored the second most important goal in a game of hockey whilst standing on a table. I shook my head. Not this day! Now was my time.
I pulled the ball back, rounded the keeper and slotted it home. The drought was over. I had scored!
Tock. Tick Tock. Time started moving faster now.
The second half moved on. Inevitably, James Bailey got another yellow. For him, time on the sideline must drag on. Peterborough took this opportunity to take more control of the game, attacking our D and making some decent chances, but all were comfortably contained by Stu, P and Rosselli at the back. With thirty seconds to go, the team almost completely resigned to a one-one draw, Joel finally made use of his now-midfield attacking freedom to drive the right wing, then baseline and fire a cross through to a jam-packed Peterborough D. A reinstated James Bailey found the ball and tucked it on to the backboard to score the best, probably most-memorable goal of the game. Redemption? Probably a few more required yet.
Time stopped again. But this time after a mere thirty seconds as the umpire called time and the cheers echoed round Long Road. We had won, I had scored. James had scored the winner.
As I walked off the pitch, I overheard some of the M2s saying, ‘God, that James is a good player,’ ‘Yeah, I heard he’s got great chat.’
The M2s’ season reached the halfway mark with a trip to table-topping Spalding, who had taken the temporary throne from Long Sutton the preceding week after we held those boys to a one-all draw.
We set off in high spirits and all safely arrived in Lincolnshire with plenty of time to spare, except Shin, who arrived ten minutes before pushback cheerfully wolfing down a McDonald’s apple pie*.
The intervening period was put to good use, particularly by Nik Patel who spent most of it accosting random villagers and asking to borrow their shorts. Our warm-up was greeted by standing applause from the local teenagers that had congregated (alarmingly quickly, in retrospect) to watch. I think one of them even filmed us on his phone, which is surely the least likely footage to go viral literally ever. A word to the wise - if you want to make your fortune in the paparazzi, don’t spend your time waiting for Jack Chalk to open his gate.
Intent on setting a tempo from the start, our forward line charged around like mad things in the opening few minutes. Short corners quickly appeared, three consecutively in fact, and from the last of these old Shinwoo sent forth an unstoppable drag-flick to put us in the lead.
Buoyed by this, we started passing the ball around with real control, with every member of the team playing their part. James Menzies was typically involved, displaying his usual predilection for winking deflections and cushioned passcouragements. Matt Allsopp was unleashed into midfield as a more pragmatic counter-point and he too sought to put his stamp on the game.
Stung into action, the home side fought back and launched a few salvoes in our direction. One short corner saw them draw level, before another felled Tom Anns and caused his temporary withdrawal. To our credit, we managed to swing the momentum back the other way and Duracell Dan Loy whacked us back into the lead just before half time.
‘Keep this up! They are tired!’ went the predictable team-talk, conveniently ignoring the fact that we also were quite tired by this point.
As you might expect for a team at the top of the league, Spalding raised their level in the second period and firmly established the midfield dominance that we had enjoyed for portions of the first half. Ash Artaman was customarily involved in our rear-guard effort, whilst Adam Catley and Douglas Gibson worked hard up and down the flanks. We became overrun though and there was nothing Michael Gillingham in goal could do about either Spalding’s equaliser or, shortly after and with Menzies enjoying a couple of olives in his sin-poubelle, their third.
Having been twice in the lead and now finding ourselves behind, it was looking bleak for the boys in yellow**. I tried to inspire the troops by doing one of those reverse stick dive interception thingies that I had seen during the international matches on the telly earlier in the day. I collapsed slowly onto the turf with a certain noble tragedy – the only way I can think to describe it is like watching the operatic death of a giant swan, or perhaps the sinking of The Lusitania.
Suitably inspired, we charged upfield with all the gusto that an M2s side can muster after sixty minutes. Somewhat surprisingly, this turned out to be enough gusto to manage another couple of short corners. For the first, we sent our now-returned big man Menzies on to the back post, whereupon he promptly headed the covering defender’s stick and left the field again, this time doused in crimson.
The second came with only a minute or so to play. Whilst everyone else had reached the end of their energy levels, one man still had something left to give. In this era of marginal gains and tailored peaking, Shin Kim is an unlikely poster boy, but Dave Brailsford and Tim Kerrigan would be proud of his own brand of commitment. The calories from the apple pie had hit Shin’s arteries at just the right time. Sucrose flowed through his system. Fructose crackled from the ends of his hair. Time itself stood beaten and confused, as another drag flick flashed from his pastried blade, thumping into the backboard to send the travelling support (Eimear and Ash’s dad) into wild celebrations***.
We retired to the Village Hall for a CLASSIC hockey teas of sausage, chips and beans. More clubs should take note of this menu. The demolition of Spalding’s previous changing rooms - the shipping containers hauled from the wreckage of some past ecological disaster - has been a tragedy, robbing us of the opportunity to study in greater detail the legion of infectious diseases that previously harboured in the shower curtain. It was duly a long and whiffy car journey home, albeit one with a Big Point in the boot.
*‘Crispy on the outside, deliciously hot and sweet on the inside, our Apple Pie is a McDonald’s classic.’ 1043kj (13% RI), 250kcal (13% RI), 14g fat (20% RI)
**We were playing in the away shirts.
***They may have just been doing star jumps to keep warm. 5pm on a dark December evening in The Fens is definitely one for the purists.
Having previously scored one out of thirty-five short corners and won only one out of ten games, the M3s needed to do something drastic. As it turns out, swapping the injector and pusher works a treat. Three goals scored from five short corners, earning Joe MoM for ‘dat goal’ and providing further evidence that Jan’s pre-match emails are fake news once again.
Other things we learnt:
Peter doesn’t wear hockey shoes…but missed Lemon votes for this why? His Dad says he’s tried to get him to wear them but he prefers trainers.
Asbo Dom didn’t live up to his reputation
Ash decided to defend again, after last week saying at Bourne Deeping, ‘I should never defend.’ He gave away a flick.
Jonny scored two goals. Classic Jonny.
George hurt his knees
Joe’s p-flick was expertly saved by the opposition’s keeper. His teammates are not sympathetic.
Alex P rolled around on the floor a bit.
Josh O had a party to get to.
The lunch queue at ARM’s HQ is too long.
There was some cheesey garlic bread that Alex P liked at teas.
Ed got a MoM vote before the match began.
Alex B wasn’t available.
The 4s have been unlucky over the past two weeks. Taking just a point in a one-one draw against Wellingborough - despite two-goal Jelley - and then leaving Cambridge City with nothing, losing 2-1 following an, 'Anything you can do, Jelley, I can do too' approach from Monckosaurus, chipping in with his own brace. Four points lost rather than one point gained.
The 4s have played well against the better teams in the league, though often losing a late goal to come away with nothing. Today's challenge was against a third placed St Neots. The unusual presence of Joe 'Flick' Whittaker stepped into the keeper's kit and looked sharp in the warm up.
Before much had happened in the game, it was apparent that St Neots own 'Area 51' was fairly contaminated and not safe to venture near. At several points in the early exchanges, Aussie-style sledging could be heard emanating from Area 51, and South (and the umpires) sensed that it might be hard to ensure Area 51 was not breached.
St Neots looked sharp, with quick passes, good movement off the ball and often threatening our D, if not the goal. In a rare foray into the South D, Flick Whittaker had the shot covered and was on the point of kicking it to Paul South for an easy goal, when a fleet of foot and unseen striker nipped in front and gave the ball the tiniest of glances, past Joe and into the goal. One-nil St Neots.
Recognising that Area 51 was a potential liability, South sent in undercover spy, Captain JJ. Usually known as a mild mannered, problem solving mediator, intrepid Captain JJ was infected, albeit momentarily, enough to mutter unmutterables within Area 51 and cause a mini explosion therein. The umpires, wisely choosing to steer clear of Area 51, and hence not hearing Captain JJs unmutterables, recognised the danger of an exploding Area 51, and encouraged Area 51 to be removed from the field of play. It is fair to say that Captian JJ considered his undercover work to be highly successful.
St Neots' second goal looked much like their first: some neat interplay, an innocuous shot on target that Flittaker had covered, only for a different stealth Neots player to nudge past him. Two-nil. Frustrating, but South were still in the game.
Various encouragements were given at half time, with John 'Ugly' Gourd suggesting attention could be paid to Area 51, which might result in additional fireworks and see Area 51 be cordoned off.
The second half South looked brighter; crisper passing, better movement off the ball, fewer hit and hopes from Monckosaurus. Passing the ball neatly to George Weston and Pete Dreuitt, spreading the play and building more deliberate attacking opportunities. The midfield combinations of James 'Sliding' Hayes, Simon Jelley, Seb Dias, John Gourd, Keishi Kohara and Captain JJ were starting to exert more influence in the middle of the pitch. It was Keishi's particular attention to Area 51 that caused the next explosion, and consequently St Neots were down to ten for five minutes - increased danger of contamination.
South struggled to take advantage of the extra man, despite Ollie Weston and the Souths - Tom and Paul - regularly getting behind the defence. As one attack broke down, St Neots countered at pace, leaving their fleet of foot centre forward one on one with the Monckosaurus. The latter failed to take the ball off the striker, allowing him to think he had made a clean break to be one-on-one with the keeper, but he hadn't counted on the extreme size of the Monckosaurus leg, which scythed him down bringing an end to that moment of hope. Unfortunately the umpires had become a little trigger happy with the cards, so he was sent to the sidelines.
South kept out the following attack, suggesting that the semi-professional foul was worthwhile. Soon after all players were back on the pitch and St Neots made two swift breaks on the South D. Most looked on concerned, but Sliding Hayes flew into action. Having no need for his Neymar-like acting skills, he drew from his curling expertise, sliding across the D and snuffing out the danger.
Soon after, Area 51 was discovered in Ireland on a shinty pitch, initially trying to lift a ball over a South player. Having been penalised thirty seconds before, Area 51, somewhat unhinged, tried the same again before firing a missile in anger towards an umpire, before being returned to the sidelines for a third time.
Mildly jealous that Area 51 had now received 3 cards, Monckosaurus set about ensuring he earned his own second - this time yellow. In an almost exact replay of his first card, the sloth-like defender allowed a teenage whippersnapper past him with the ball for a chance of a one-on-one with the keeper, only to ensure the striker lay sprawled on the ground rather than reeling away having scored St Neots' third. The umpire's generously allowing the aged dinosaur a break on the sidelines for a second time in the half.
The game petered out a little as South struggled to find the edge needed to score, and St Neots took to time wasting and showboating as the clock wound down. One or two were unimpressed by the toxic influence Area 51 had on the St Neots team as a whole, which took the edge off a highly competitive and enjoyable match.
A return trip for the M5s to Ely City's temporary home at Ely College, their much awaited new pitch currently consisting of several hundred bags of sand stored in the corner of the car park.
The away team arrived keen to avenge the recent three-one defeat at the hands of Ely's 3s, despite the prospect of much stronger opposition from the promotion chasing 2s. Buoyed by the return of defensive giants, James P and Rock Radford, South started well, stifling most of the home team's attacks before they reached debutante keeper Tendayi R, but nevertheless calling upon him to make some critical saves early in game, ably assisted by Shahzad with some excellent 3D defensive skills. At the other end, the South midfield and attack were in good form, communicating and passing well and creating several good opportunities to seize an early lead.
At half time there was still little to separate the two teams, which was fairly reflected by the nil-nil scoreline. It was the home team however who nudged ahead shortly after the restart with a deflection that seemed to have been saved but was deemed to have crossed the line by the umpire. Whilst we don't doubt the accuracy of this decision, it was a close call so we hope that they might install VAR technology at their new pitch! A second Ely goal followed a few minutes later and it looked like we were heading for another 3-x loss (where x < 3). But perhaps not! A rare South short corner skimmed across the D for Rob B to blast towards the goal, finding its home via a deflection off the keeper's right pad. Undeterred, the home team continued to press hard and sealed the tie with a further two goals in the final minutes of the game.
This was arguably our best performance of the season so far and a good sign for our final match of the year against St Neots 4s, a team we beat at the start of the season.
Tendayi R was worthy winner of MoM for a brilliant debut in the keeper's kit.
LoM was awarded to Ky for an alleged pinching incident which we are convinced was purely an attempt to wake himself up from the nightmare of yet another 3-x defeat!
It was a drab and drizzly day in Peterborough but after an unusually long warm up (it was longer than four minutes - *cough* Long Road’s Saturday scheduling *cough*), the match got underway. A slightly patchy start from us saw two early goals from CoP. But it wasn’t long until we got into our rhythm and saw the familiar site of Katie’s long legs striding up the wing, only occasionally getting tangled and leaving her rolling on the soggy, sandy floor of the below-par astro. A cracking strike from Alice ‘Walker’ Wright off a short corner rattled the flimsy goal frame, and shortly afterwards she was joined on the scoresheet by Amalia, sweeping one in from top-D. So we clawed it back to two-all by half time and had the benefit of Dave’s golden advice to take into the next thirty-five.
We held our own for a while, most of CoP’s little nippers being stopped in their tracks by Robyn’s solid block tackles. But around the same time as Carly clocked on to the fact that CoP stands for ‘City of Peterborough’ (a Lemon-worthy comment) and Kim burst into a rant that questioned the eyesight of the umpires, our opposition slipped another two goals past us within quick succession, leaving the final score four-two.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though - at match teas we were served up a gourmet chickpea curry by Peterborough sports club’s very own ‘Chef James’, wrapping up the morning nicely.
As the L3s made our way to Long Road in the wind and the rain, sleep in our eyes, we were not feeling prepared for the match ahead of us. However, a motivational team talk from Laurie (“They’re going to come out hard so we’re going to come out harder,” seems to be our team tactic this season) and a sudden change in the weather brightened our spirits. Pathetic fallacy? I think so. And we were ready to take on Royston 2s.
They had first pushback. The ball was out hard but quickly won by South, making a strong lead towards the D. Great start, ladies! After a series of short, sharp passes (which I think even Dave would be happy with) we won the first short of many. Soon after that a penalty flick was awarded to us. It was Lauren B who stepped up to take it (MoM-worthy effort for sure) and popped it effortlessly into the back of the goal. With our spirits high, the umpire called another short - this time it was Rhi who smashed in a goal for us.
After half time Royston (as predicted) came back fighting but so did we with another goal from Lauren B. Another short was given to us - Tuffers received the ball from Lauren at top D, dribbled around two players and sent it straight into the back of the goal. The score was four-one but Royston were not giving up easily.
As the game was drawing to a close tensions were running high, as demonstrated by Janette’s Usain Bolt-esq sprint all the way down the wing to support our attackers. A short was awarded to us just as the final whistle blew. The match concluded with a series of somewhat chaotic shorts in which all members of both teams could play in the attacking twenty-three; unsurprisingly, not a single shot on goal went in due to the sheer amount of feet getting in the way (hence why there were so many shorts).
Overall a great game in which we were able to practice everything we've learnt in training over the last few weeks; a result and a large number of bruises (mainly on Emma) that we should be impressed with.
I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week.
Emotions ran high in the match and unfortunately the miserable weather didn’t help the situation. Top of the league, Ely proved to be a tough opposition this week, resulting in their nine-one win. But despite the score we didn’t feel deflated. The L4s are getting stronger each week and thanks to our fantastic coach, Bhav, we are starting to concentrate on using space, passing around players and building on our strengths.
Emily made some outstanding saves, winning the MoM vote.
Alexine did a repeat of Sam Andrews last week and subbed onto the pitch without a stick, but to make it worse she didn’t even realise until made aware by a few South players shouting, ‘ALEXINE!!!!! STICK!!!!’ Maybe she fancied a game of football? Who knows!
Our spirits were lifted when we drove back to Long Road thanks to Elaine’s DJing. We certainly made an entrance, singing along to Shania Twain… The L4s are back in town!