St Ives! Always one of my favourite haunts. Whether it’s a yellow card on my debut or another one a few years later for dropping the c-bomb on a ten year old, the venue holds so many happy memories on a personal level. To add to the excitement, the opposition’s twelfth man, Jan, had started the mind games early, promising cold showers after the end of the match. Perhaps that was a good thing; it was a scorching hot day after all, so we’d need them.
Having navigated the A14 despite the absence of pakoras, the fifteen-strong squad went through their paces, buoyed by their victory over Wisbech the previous weekend and further excited by opposition numbers looking a little thin. South started the game strongly and, after a few good openings, took the lead when Lamming placed a pinpoint shot past the goalkeeper’s right foot.
The game then became a bit sticky, with James B taking it upon himself to play the Aston role (see first paragraph), trading a few verbals with Ives, as the big man himself was left back too far away from the action to get involved! Having got inside their heads though, James then did his talking with his stick (ahem), getting beyond the forward line to poke home on the reverse after a goalmouth melée.
Two-nil to the good and South kept the free-flowing hockey going, switching the ball around when nothing was on, and the front line wreaking havoc when something was.
It was against the run of play when St Ives scored from a short corner off Darren’s head. South didn’t let it slow their pace and soon restored order when Oil used his pace to great effect as he sprinted away from the last defender and slotted the ball between the keeper’s legs for three-one.
Half time came and captain Stu pressed the need for calm and to approach the second half as if it was nil-nil. South began this to great effect, with the front line setting up a couple of two-on-one (and one three-on-one) situations. Unfortunately they couldn’t convert these chances, with one particularly great save from the keeper stopping Harry Lewis.
Midway through the second half, St Ives got a goal back with another great short corner routine being deflected home. Ten minutes later they were level with a reverse stick strike from the top of the D finding the bottom corner.
And pretty much that was that. South looked threatening in the last few minutes but couldn’t find the winner in a match we felt we had dominated. We always get a card at St Ives so the last order of business was to decide who took it: Harry Chalk stepped up, deliberately kicked the ball and that was that.
Credit to St Ives for fighting back - they had well-worked short corner routines which will win them many points in tight matches. And credit to them as well for turning on the hot water for the showers! Match teas were great too, enough sausages for three each - just like the game!
As Dave Aston always says, you can never have too much sausage.
Saturday evening. A 4.30pm pushback delayed by previous games. Every other team in the club tucked up at home in front of the fire, feet up, a sherry on the go. The sun fading. The rain having set in. It was a glorious time to be alive and to be in the M2s.
Cambridge Nomads had made the trip across town to Long Road for the late push-back. Casting a glance across to their arrival, we greeted several familiar faces and then dived into the changing rooms to hide from the elements.
Once coaxed back outside, our warm-up climaxed too soon, as per usual, which at least gave us time to fully appreciate the Nomads’ huddle and shout of their own name, like we used to do before binning it off for being a bit weird.
We had fielded a particularly esoteric starting XI, with five centre backs supporting three centre forwards, a left winger and Asbo Dom. What followed was not necessarily fluid.
Our visitors certainly held the territorial advantage, and it was somewhat against the run of play when Ash Artaman flicked us into the lead from a short corner. Tom Anns, who was stick-stopping and calling the short corners, grinned across at me, clearly claiming sole credit for the goal. It is a curious thing, the Tom Anns grin. There is a definite cheekiness, combined with a more general sense of two hairy caterpillars having an argument inside a pillow.
The second period began with more Nomads pressure, and it wasn’t a surprise when they slotted home an equaliser, albeit from an attack that we might have liked to defend better.
Returning to the side, Jason Mann was called into action a couple more times, sliding out of his goal well to nip out danger. Jimmy Wood was also in the thick of things, bravely running down a couple of corners and taking a meaty blow to the foot for his troubles.
Up front, Jack Chalk was nurdling around for space and furtively prodding us up the pitch, bringing to mind a slightly drunk scarecrow, scuffling across fields in the fading darkness, grabbing bunches of slightly stale straw to stuff up his sleeves.
Jack was involved in our second goal, manoeuvring Tom Steed up the field so that he could glide the ball past a helpless keeper.
We would have loved to have hung on, but with just a few minutes to play, Nomads thumped home a short corner goal of their own.
In truth, a point each was probably about right from a competitive game in which both teams gave plenty but never looked that likely to bang in several goals from open play.
Three games into the 2018/19 season and we remain unbeaten, holding more points and a higher league position than this time last season. Keep the faith.
Background. Cambridge South M3s are generally characterised by steady, mid-table league performance. However, the loss of players due to head-detaching injuries, sodding off to London and general fear of adverse weather such as drizzle can lead to complications, such as suboptimal turnout, poor form, and decrease in morale. It has been suggested that a trip to Kettering to play their Men's Second XI (referred to as "Kettering M2s" herein) may be associated with improved sporting outcomes, namely victory and goals, though the association is not fully understood.
Aims. To travel to Kettering and play hockey.
Methods. This non-randomised, 11v11, head-to-head trial (referred to as "the match" herein) was undertaken according to a pre-specified protocol, as follows. Patients (n=11, referred to as "players" herein) were recruited via email, online spreadsheet and from other teams within the club. Four cars were arranged to depart from Long Road. Each player had a stick and an assigned position within the 2-3-2-3 formation (also known as a "series of triangles"; "that formation the M2s use"; "4-3-3 in all but name"). The primary endpoint was victory. Secondary outcomes included overall goals, actually scoring from a short corner, and avoiding injuries.
Results. 10 players attended Long Road, with three cars departing; one player (Nev) chose to drive to Stansted airport instead. The weather was poor. The pitch was sandy. Only two balls between ten players hampered the pre-match "smash balls at George" routine. The missing player (Nev) attended prior to pushback, and so was included in the final team. His initial prognosis was deemed “lemon-like".
The primary outcome (victory) was not reached: Cambridge South M3s (one goal: a two yard "Dookun special"); Kettering M2s (three goals: two from short corners). With only one goal scored, the tally was described as "low". At least five short corners were conceded by Kettering M2s; none of these were converted. Match-emergent adverse events were infrequent, though one player (Alex B) experienced a knee contusion from a strongly-hit ball. Despite failure to reach the primary and secondary outcomes, several of the players (Joe; Jonny; Pip) covered a significant amount of ground; their performance was deemed "good" by the investigator (and subsequently by the committee). Player adherence to the rules was generally good, and there were no significant differences in discipline between the two cohorts. Two Kettering M2s' players received cards for tackling, deemed "medieval" by the umpire; one Cambridge South M3s' player (Pash) received a yellow card for a clear protocol violation involving expletive feedback, deemed "profane" by the umpire. The player was later diagnosed a terminal lemon.
Discussion. Cambridge South M3s were shown to be inferior to Kettering M2s in this particular match, failing to reach any of the pre-designated primary or secondary outcomes. Unsurprisingly, no predefined short corner routine meant that execution ranged from "confused" to "dismal". Despite this, several players showed impressive performance over the course of the match and should be sought for future trials. Additional matches, preferably with actual substitutes, are desirable.
Limitations. Lack of substitutes; poor weather; bad language.
Expert Commentary. Bit of a wasted trip, really.
Sometimes to play well together a team needs to know each other, to trust each other, to understand what makes each other tick. You can’t get this bonding done during matches, not training and not even during socials. What is needed is to be trapped, five to a car, for a three hour round trip to Leadenham. And when the conversation runs its course you can share photos of each other snoozing with friends (I think James and I looked quite peaceful). So it’s fair to say the long trip helped the mighty Fours perform better – and I think even the staunchest Leadenham supporter would agree the better team won on Saturday.
It was miserable when we left Cambs but by the time we found RAF Cranwell, then the gatehouse, then the parking, then the changing room, then the pitch – the weather had gotten worse. It was cold. Tom S was keen to continually remind us that we were ‘up North’ and it was terrible weather up here. However, being a Brummie and taking a keen interest in where the North/South divide is placed, I didn’t really agree with that assessment.
Reading Father Jan’s Friday sermon we expected a tough game: Leadenham had won their last home game eleven-nil (gulp…). But from the off, we were on it. We didn’t give any of those players in black a second on the ball, doggedly harassing (within the rules of the game) and when we got the ball, we went for the jugular. Speedily Oli S, Tom S, George, JJ and Seb advanced, quickly getting the ball to the forwards to see what they could do. I honestly don’t think they got out of their half for the first ten minutes. However, the experienced home defence held firm, then in the odd foray into South’s half Leadenham found Andy C, James, and Simon K (for me, MoM) not letting up an inch. Mike might not have even touched the ball.
This lasted though only until fifteen minutes in when we hit with a double goal salvo. For the first, it started with Tom S; bursting through the right, bouncing over a couple of chopping tackles, reaching the byline and pulling it back to allow the simplest of tap ins – every forward’s dream, thank you very much. Then not two minutes later a long corner in the middle of the pitch was driven in by Oli S, half stopped by a defender but not cleared and it fell nicely to enable a reverse hit into the unguarded bottom corner – thanks again.
The third was again originated by a South, but South Snr not Jnr, Paul popping the ball into the D, where I was able to get past a defender and simply hit it as hard as I could at the goalie – straight through his legs! Three-nil, we were coasting and the score line in no way flattered us.
We did however, take our foot off the gas, allowing the hosts to get a small foothold: on the stroke of half time they won a short which was cleanly struck in - Mike stood no chance, credit where it’s due.
The second half South dominated – held Leadenham at arms length (Andy C in particular was solid in the tackle) and it was only a matter of time until #4 came - but it didn’t. We huffed and puffed mightily but couldn’t breach the defence again. But it didn’t matter, there was no way they were getting through the South back line. Chances came but were not sticking at the other end. The last ten minutes were a procession and a bit of short corner practice. Well done all. Thanks to Leadenham for being great hosts and cracking teas!
Our strategy for this match was based on the assumptions that our Cambridge neighbours would be a) unfit and b) a little rusty following no-shows by the opposition for their first two league matches. Unfortunately, they arrived with a very keen and youthful looking squad, rendering our assumptions flawed!
Unperturbed by this the home team made their now-characteristic strong start, pressing the visitors hard during the first ten minutes of the half, but without any real scoring opportunities. Nomads soon found their rhythm however and it wasn’t long before they were pushing into the South D, forcing ‘Nomads defector’ Sean G to make some spectacular saves, many with his stick…someone should have reminded him he could use his feet as well! Mid-way through the half Nomads found a way through the South defence and past our gargantuan keeper, followed shortly by a second. Despite this the home team kept their composure and the visitors never really looked adding to their account during the remainder of the half.
South continued to press hard after the break and there were several half chances, including one where Howard S received the ball on the edge of D and fired it into Rob B lingering a couple of metres out from the goal line. The Nomads keeper was on it though and quickly went to ground to deflect the incoming shot. Several powerful clearances by the South defence found their targets, giving the midfield and forward line the opportunity to launch some promising counterattacks, one catching Steve B quite literally on the hop as he turned to receive the ball and immediately fell flat on his back, earning a well-deserved LoM and leaving serial LoM’er Andy T a distant second!
The remaining minutes of the second half were a bit of a damp squib (a bit like the weather!) with neither team really looking like adding to their tally so the match ended two-nil to the visitors.
Nomads were definitely the stronger and better drilled team, but South M5s continued to show the spirit and commitment that has earned us two emphatic wins out of three games so far this season, so lots to be positive about as we travel to St Ives next weekend!
With a grim start to Saturday morning, the South Ladies' 1s were set for their match against City 4s.
With the rain pouring down, our girls prepared for the match both mentally and physically. A quick start came from our ladies putting pressure on the away team from the whistle. With patience and pressure, our ladies finally gained a reward with a goal from Laura. With half time fast approaching our ladies maintained their pace, keeping them at a one-nil advantage come half time.
After an inspirational talk from both captains, Blythe and Robyn, the ladies maintained their lead coming away with a win as the full time whistle blew.
Man of the match went to Robs Murray, Blythe and Amalia, with Lemon going to Maddy for her forgetful nature! (Lemon for the 2nd time this season already!)
In contrast to the glorious sunshine at St Ives last week, it was an extremely wet and miserable Saturday for the first of several upcoming Cambridge derby matches for the L2s. In the dryness of the changing rooms we heard from Grace and Rebecca all about how St Ives’s pitch-induced hand scabs are more problematic in everyday life than knee scabs. Even putting on one’s shin guards can cause the newest layer of skin to fall off again; lovely. In a further bruise update, Izzy didn’t have a bruise from a close encounter with Lucy’s stick at training on Thursday and Eimear’s bruise is almost gone.
After the chit chat, the L2s got down to their new focused pre-match routine and concentrated on hockey (for the most part). We’d seen the results so far in the league and were up for a high intensity game against a City 5s line up that was showing better form and results this year than in previous seasons.
The game started quite evenly with both teams working hard despite the rainy conditions. Some breaks through midfield for both sides started to emerge but little was made of them as each side tested the other while trying not to slip on the newly water-based pitch! The water level may have contributed to some interesting tumbles and rolls by Eimear on the far right touch line. The tipping point came when Dani A started slotting home the first two of her three. The first goal came from a beautiful hit from Izzy at top D which Dani A got a lovely touch to and directed into the back left of the goal. The second came not long afterwards with a really well-worked goal that started around the South back line and then up the line where it was crossed in from the left of the pitch to the right of top D, where once again Izzy crossed to Dani A who finished it nicely to make it two-nil.
After this, South settled a little, took control of the game and started to manage the run of play to create even more scoring chances. Ellie, Lucy and the newly returned for the season, H, managed the backline superbly for another clean sheet, with smooth and controlled passes around the back feeding the ball through the City attack to our mids. The goals came with a pleasing regulatory from then on out. Hannah scored her first South goal with a lovely deflection on a shot from Izzy to the right of the D to make it three-nil. Shortly before half time and from another nice South break up the left wing, Eimear got the ball from Izzy just left of top D put it in the top right corner to make it four-nil at the break.
Half time jelly babies were very quickly consumed through chattering teeth. Following a brief chat with Paul we lined back out ASAP in the rain, ready to go as the rain continued to fall with the wind picking up and blowing it back into our faces. Shiver. However sorry the players felt for themselves, appreciation is certainly due to the brave spectators, to Paul for coaching and to the umpires.
The second half saw even more of an improvement of the style of South’s play, with greater fluidity and confidence in our linking play and closing down of City’s attack. More lovely stick to stick passes around the back and up around the wings using our width and layers to create more attacking opportunities. Rebecca was sending some lovely balls through up front to chase, Jess was working hard in the centre to secure the ball and Grace and Sarah really pushed themselves to win and keep the ball. Lauren started the game as sweeper and showed her versatility by finishing the game playing right forward. Vicky, on her L2s debut, had a relatively quiet game as our defensive line kept most threats at bay. Some City short corners were quickly closed down and cleared by our runners from goal. When called on to make a save in a one-on-one situation, Vicky calmly came out and smothered that chance to deny a shot.
Goals five and six came from short corners with Jess W scoring from almost the right baseline and getting it round the City keeper. Dani A completed her hat-trick with a beautiful strike straight to the back left of the goal, hitting the backboard with a real thud. There were a couple of instances of scrambled play around the City goal, one of which resulted in a second tumble by Eimear while clashing with a City player in an effort to avoid Jan as umpire (sorry, Jan!). The final goal came from one such scramble occasion where Eimear from the P spot put it to the right corner; seven-nil.
It was a game of seventy minutes of high intensity hockey from South, despite the rain, and a team performance to be proud of. A mark of the real team performance was the diversity of Man of the Match votes, split across several players including Dani A, Grace, Lucy, Izzy, Eimear, Jess, Ellie and Lauren. Ultimately Grace won for generally working hard all game, holding the play, controlling distribution in midfield and great short corner injections.
A good result for South and a fun game played in the spirit of good natured friendly competition, with both home side and opposition bonded by the driving rain. Lemony lemoning was Eimear’s fate this week for diving acrobatics. Luckily, as we are told, all L2s are a 10/10 team so one has to make an effort even when tumbling around on the pitch.
Waking up Saturday morning, everyone was really excited for the match against Cambridge Nomads, until we looked out the window to see the terrible weather outside! It was raining, windy AND super cold, but that wasn’t going to stop our Ladies 3s from playing a banging match!
We came to the pitch nice and early, and did a good warm up; Dave would be proud! Although we all agreed the pitch deserved a Lemon vote, for the little hill roll down on one side, the leaves all over the side lines and the prickly shrubs that the ball got lost in.
The L3s started off the game with a strong attacking force, looking like the stronger side by far! There was some good passing and calling for the ball through the midfield all the way up to the attackers, with some really good dribbling into the D by Irina, earning herself three MoM votes. But the Nomads weren’t going to make it easy for us and attacked back, scoring the first goal of the match, taking the score to one-nil. But that didn’t let our ladies down, we knew we could counteract that, so the ball quickly made it’s way across the pitch towards the Nomads goal with some triangle passes between Lauren, Louisa, Rhi and Zara into the D and into the GOAL: it’s one-all!! Cambridge South started to celebrate, when suddenly the call was changed to no goal due to some fouls in the D… So we were back to one-nil, determined to equal that score out again. Unfortunately the Nomads where quick to react, and scored their second goal of the match.
The defence and goalie (welcome to the team, Ana) had a lot of work to do in this match, but the defensive line was strong with Maria, Janette and Laurie saving some great balls from the defensive-mid positioning. Laurie had some cracking shots from the sixteen yard line, earning her four MoM votes, and Janette earned herself one MoM vote for handling some great aerials that were heading straight for her.
After a very cold and soggy half time chat, fuelled by delicious berry jelly babies, we were back at it. Charlotte and Hannah working well on the defensive wings, earning Charlotte the MoM victory with five votes, for some wonderful drives, spacing and good positioning. There was good passing between Emma, Hayley and Lou in the midfield, towards the front to Emily, who was ready to run into their D, earning us some attacking short corners. But Nomads didn’t let any balls in, and straight away got themselves a short corner, through which they shot and scored; now it’s three-nil. We had to keep going, and keep powering through the terrible weather.
At this point, one of the most memorable moments in the game happened, which earned Lou the winning LoM title with six votes for her. At the top of the Nomads’ D, Lou had the ball, no defenders around her, and unfortunately fell over after passing the ball!
Nomads weren’t stopping, they were goal hungry, and unfortunately scored their final goal, bringing the score up to four-nil. The girls were starting to get very wet and cold, and were looking forward to the end of the game. The umpires made the two minute call, so there wasn’t long to go, and then the Nomads got themselves another short corner. Now it was important to avoid any more goals, this was the last play, so pressure was on. The strike the ball top of the D, pass over to the left where Ani was defending, went through her legs and off the pitch - PHEWWW… game was over!
Everyone soaked, ready to go home and take a nice hot shower, or to teas to have some hot food, but guess where Emma was going? Rowing… Due to her craziness, she earned herself four LoM votes: what was she thinking?!?!
All in all, it was a really good game, and the score does not reflect on the play of the game, as we felt that both sides were quite even in strength! With so many different MoM votes, this shows the nice team work within the entire team. I’m sure that once everyone gets to know each other through the year, we can have a great comeback against the Nomads in our second match, and show them what we’re made of!