Saturday the 9th of September was a very special day for the club as we finally said goodbye to one of the most prolific goal scorers in recent club history. In fact, according to a certain website called Google, this player has scored 118 goals in 136 appearances for South, since his debut way back in 2008. With emails being sent across the entire South clubverse, we were all duly notified to be at the Tram Depot for 7.30 to see the chap off. But beforehand, we had a game of hockey.
A twelve-strong South side travelled to Bishop's Stortford to play in the penultimate friendly warm-up match of the season. With only the one substitute, we knew we were in for a shift. The home side (who are preparing to play in the league above) were a very composed team, managing to transition seamlessly from defence to attack through long channel balls, exposing an apparent weakness in defending wide due to our attack-heavy formation. However, once our defence had the chance to stand the ball carriers up, the attack was quashed in a reliable fashion and the only real danger, you could sense, would be from set pieces.
Now the home side's set pieces deserve a special mention as they had a very slick routine, with enough variation, without being overly complicated. Having won four short corners all game, they converted three with tidy drag flicks left and right of the goal. This was the area which stood out as the biggest difference between our two sides on the day.
Attacking-wise for the South outfit, we had our fair share of possession and we played impressive hockey at times. With a stand out performance from "Spikey" Mike in midfield, we pushed and pulled their defence with good leads, posting up, and movement off the ball creating space for others in anticipation. Having said this, we were clearly still lacking the cutting edge in the ever-elusive art of goal scoring.
There was a passage of play where Shin Kim was taken out by the goalkeeper, whilst offloading to Harry Chalk, who struck the ball goalbound, only to be stopped by the defender's foot on the line. We were rightfully awarded a penalty flick.
Up stood Shin to try to convert all of the pressure we had been exerting on the home side, but his mind games failed him and the keeper ended up making a relatively simple save. He shan't be taking any more for a while!
We were also rewarded with two short corners of our own but, yet again, our set pieces were below par and clearly needed polishing before the start of the season.
Having been down three-nil at half time, we played a lungbusting second half, conceding only the one goal whilst spurning a fair few chances of our own.
Man of the match was Mike Karran for his defiant ball carrying and distribution and maniacal defensive chasing.
Lemon was Shin Kim, for failing to convert his penalty flick.
After the game, most of the team gathered at the Tram Depot and said farewell to Graham McCulloch. There was a farewell card, a short speech, many pleasantries, some champagne, an after party at Revolutions for the wilder ones… we said goodbye to not only a talented sportsman but also a good friend. So an era ends.
We gathered at Long Road in anticipation of the M2s’ traditional blisteringly-fast start to the season. New additions to the team, Josh and Harry, got an early taste of the slickly-oiled M2s organisational machine, as we frantically grabbed balls (none in the kit bag) and away shirts (a call from our man in Stortford, Chalk (H), having let us know the oppo were playing in dark blue).
After a brief tour of Birchanger Green services and a slightly longer tour of Hockerill College, we finally arrived at the astro, where the heartfelt words of the much-missed Menzies were appreciated by all. The same can’t be said for NBM’s new touchy-feely warmup, which very much divided opinion.
Having seen the M1s' and M3s' games previous to ours, we were anticipating a real test against Bishop’s Stortford 2s. The early exchanges appeared to confirm that, with both sides happy to play a high-tempo, open game. Barney may have taken this a little too far by crashing full-speed into probably the biggest guy on the pitch and landing heavily on his shoulder.
The deadlock was broken around ten minutes in, as Harry picked up the ball, manoeuvred himself into space at the top right of the D, and buried his shot into the bottom left. He evidently enjoyed this so much that he followed it up with another clean strike from the top of the D shortly afterwards. Seeing how effective this tactic appeared to be, our other debutant, Josh, got in the act with a strong drive to the top of the D and strike to the corner. Three-nil, and just time before half-time for Douglas to cynically fell the umpire.
Stortford came out strong in the second half, determined to get back into the game, and won a series of short corners that Darren, also making his South debut, needed to be alert to keep out. A yellow card for Matt Kenzie for failing to retreat five added to the pressure but we managed to ride it out successfully. We suspected that a fourth goal would kill off the game for good, and it duly came as Josh caught the opposition napping with a quickly taken free hit, providing a well-struck ball across the D that Harry neatly deflected past the keeper. Max then capped a MoM-winning display with a fifth goal, pouncing on a loose ball in the D.
A delighted team then repaired to Stortford Cricket Club for teas featuring the world’s largest sausages. Well, except Dom, who may still be looking for his car as we speak.
All-in-all, an incredibly encouraging first game of the season. Is there a chance that the M2s might have woken up before Christmas this year, or will normal service resume next week?
The Men’s 3s took to the 2017/18 stage against a well drilled and youthful Bishops Stortford side for this beginning of season friendly. Fresh from promotion and with some new players – and a new formation to boot – the group were keen to hit the turf. Bishops Stortford began the game well and gained the upper hand with some efficient moves from their technically gifted young squad, scoring 2 goals in the first 20 minutes. Some fine work from the industrious Toynton in goal kept the deficit to a semi-respectable 3-0 by the interval.
Half time brought about the customary bag of Haribo Tangfastics (other sugar coated sweets are available) alongside an inquest into what had gone slightly amiss in a half that had seen South concede three goals. This was, however, somewhat of a 'first date’ for the M3s, with this promising yet brooding mistress of a formation and she was clearly not to be tamed by the customary agricultural clearances from the 22' that suited less able opposition.
Brazen-faced South began more positively in the second half and with more stick tackles than you could shake a stick at, Bishops Stortford began to show their inexperience. Ollie A’s sprightly runs outclassed Stortford’s defence on occasion, which inspired South to dominate the game for a period of a few minutes. South's defence was unfortunate to be undone once more however, and Toynton again had to save well from the penalty spot before a marvellous overhead pass reached Joe Whittaker for an unlikely first goal of the season.
The prospect of a new hockey season never fails to excite. On paper the team looked exciting too: a mishmash of old heads, Southerners imported from other teams and the odd brand new and most welcome face. The M5s' fixture beforehand saw a slightly lopsided score-line (1-4 against) so we knew this wasn't going to be easy (of course, we weren't to know that the M3s' would fare slightly worse still in the game that followed).
With the chairman and captain otherwise engaged, stand-in skipper Rob took the reigns and requested a 3-1-3-3 formation, the idea of high width and compacted centre having being a tried-and-tested hockey formula. Early exchanges were evenly shared with South looking solid at the back when questioned and making several good forays into opposition territory, mostly through wide men, Simon and Oli. The opposition were passing confidently and it wasn't long before one attack saw a Stortford forward receive the ball in the middle of the circle and strike home past a wrong-footed George.
Unrattled, the Southern pressure continued to be exerted. A decent run from Oli and scramble in front of goal led to a clear stick tackle. Central midfield maestro, JJ, injected beautifully and Dave was there to smash the ball home: a classic Monckosaurus strike. Something suggests this might not be the last time this combination works.
We were taking more control, with Ian, Stuart and Paul in particular forming a barrier which was difficult to pass and robbed the ball high up the pitch on several occasions. A few half-chances went begging for both sides but little of note at either end. It was hot and this may have explained the slight substitution confusion just before the break. We were, however, playing well, maintaining our shape and discipline, and trying to pass the ball.
As we swapped ends a formation change saw Dave push higher into a defensive midfield role, and Ky and Andy man-marking their two forwards, leaving Alan as a more conventional sweeper. This push further freed JJ to play slightly higher up the pitch in midfield. The spine of the team stretched like a giraffe reaching for a high acacia leaf. We planned to rotate the midfield in the second half anyway to maintain constant pressure until the end.
As a result of these tweaks, and perhaps a little early-season misjudgment of fitness from both sides, the game opened up and further opportunities were created. At our end the opposition forced a handful of penalty corners in a short and somewhat nervy period. One resulting passage of play led to a player overload which saw us concede a second goal when the unmarked forward had time to slot home. Darn it.
It was great to see that going behind again didn't dampen the spirits: we knew we were competing well and that there would still be chances to come. The build-up to our second goal started with a strong tackle from the back and a quick pass to JJ in midfield. Simon's run left distracted their midfield well and the ball was switched to Oli via Paul. Oli turned in the circle only to be faced by a defender and keeper. The ball was raised to knee height and Rob plucked it to the left and then pushed reverse to the right past the keeper. Paul was on hand to ensure the goal but, like the true gentleman he is, graciously allowed the trickling ball to cross the line unaided in the absence of scrambling defenders. We were level.
By this stage the team was settling into the new formation and had found a better rhythm. Laurie's energy in particular was causing the opposition trouble as we looked to exploit the renewed forward pressure. The final minutes flew by and before long that was that.
The first half may have felt like a lot of hard work, and the score may have justly ended in deadlock, but that second half was ours. If one or two other chances were converted we might easily have won, though overall that would have disappointed our opponents in what was a well-balanced pre-season opener. Still, anyone catching the end of the match would have seen a new-look M4s side, playing a fresh formation with renewed confidence. In some sense, what we wouldn't have given for another fifteen minutes of play. In another sense, we timed it well: in the game which followed the floodlights sparked to life and the gathered grey clouds opened.
The summer may be behind us now but standing in its place is genuine optimism for a decent season ahead. We just need to build confidence together and keep putting in the effort.
Cambridge South M5s assembled nice and early under clear blue skies.
Skipper Howard Steed was a man with a plan, coming prepared with the team positions and quickly sorting required substitutions; while Simon Jelley graciously doubled up as the goalkeeper and donned the newly-commissioned M5s' keeping kit.
Cambridge South started the game with a huge burst of energy, the forwards Simon Ta and Shahbaz Ali breaking through and pushing past the Bishop's defence, but unfortunately unable to convert.
South conceded four short corners in quick succession but the solid defending, led by Men of the Match Andy Williamson and keeper Simon Jelley, meant that they were easily dispatched.
New to the club Ben Williamson showed off his moves at midfield together with Hesham Mashhour who showed great promise in hassling the opposition well.
South won a short corner but drag-flicker Shahbaz Ali managed to teleport himself to the sidelines the instant before this happened, meaning that his skills were left redundant. Simon Ta shot the ball at lightening speed towards the goal corner but unfortunately it slipped a few centimetres wide.
Half time saw the score at nil-nil, during which Jack Chalk shared his wisdom and strategy for the second half. It was also at this point that we were told that the opposition players played at a higher level, which was a good boost to confidence.
The second half started with another burst of energy from South. It wasn't enough, unfortunately, to stop a goal against when a few opposition players broke through the defensive line.
Not long after, however, Howard Steed put a touch on a great cross, leaving Simon Ta to whack the ball into the opposition goal.
Although the scoring of the equaliser lifted South spirits, it did not last long as the Bishop sent front line pawns to outmanoeuver Cambridge South and score another goal.
South knights, Rupert Espley and Paul South, showed some great skill and commanding presences against oncoming opposition attackers in midfield and made some great passes to Phil Harvey and Simon Kitchen, who meandered well around opposition players to get the ball where it needed to be.
Our most powerful player on the board, Andrew Williamson, suddenly became injured and had to substitute himself off. Our proverbial queen was down.
After some great saves by Simon Jelley, two more goals followed in quick succession, leaving the final score at four-one to the Bishop - Check mate.
Both teams had played with enormous energy, fully taxing the other side to near exhaustion. Players shook hands and complimented each other on a game well played and well enjoyed.
The usual Cherry Box pizzas were quickly devoured down at Cantabs clubhouse, where M5 players shared their eagerness for the next game, and even more hockey during the week.
The first half of the game was played in pouring rain. Whilst there was some great play, either the rain or the five months off the pitch had slowed us up. The game was fairly evenly matched but by half time Bishop Stortford were 1-0 up.
The team started the second half with greater determination - this might have been down to the two types of Haribo sweets on offer at half time or that the sun had finally broken through. Certainly there was much more pace on the balls directed at the goal.
The first of these balls to find the net was from Jenny Taylor, new to CSHC this season, and this was closely followed by a goal from Eimear. Bishop Stortford's second goal was assisted by a ball from Cath which deflected in off our keeper, but credit to Cath who did a great job playing out of position.
Our final goal came from MOM Izzy. Her reverse stick strike was deservedly described as, "The best L2s' goal ever, in the history of L2s' goals!"
This was a great start to the season for the L2s - and welcome to three new players to CSHC: Jenny, Jess and Katie.