Vice-captain Harry had a good feeling on match day, predicting wins for the M1s, England and Scotland. Captain Stu started strongly by winning the toss. South played well and held on to territory, moving up the field smoothly with attacking runs and dynamic passing from the halves to the forwards. Crostyx’s defence held firm and prevented South from penetrating the goal. Eventually though, South won a penalty corner and a direct strike from our defender, P, ended up in the back of the goal. One-nil South.
However, Crostyx managed to score from one of their corners, leaving the game evenly poised with both teams attacking each other, which was a great spectacle for the supporters. Mariano’s younger brother even made it out to support his older brother’s team. The game did get physical and the refs had to talk to Crostyx on several occasions to tell them to settle down. However, it was a South defender who ended up being awarded a yellow card, although P was happy to take a card for Mothers’ Day the following day.
Cambridge South ultra marathon runner, Mark, suffered a calf injury and subbed himself off. At least he could sort out the pizzas at the club house at the end of the game. This saw Crostyx put pressure on Cambridge South and they managed to score another goal, South not winning the fifty-fifty calls even though they had home town advantage, to go into half-time with a two-one lead.
Team management decided during the half-time break to field twelve players to help even-up the balance on the pitch. The refs slowly found out about this tactic and promptly reminded the management that hockey was an eleven-a-side game, which included the keeper. South went down four-one at one stage of the game but managed to claw it back again by putting pressure on Crostyx and forcing them to make errors. This created another short corner opportunity; again P smashed the ball into the goal from a straight strike. Joel quickly followed suit, flicking a shot into the net to get on the score sheet for the first time for the club. South held onto possession and territory but just ran out of time to score the equaliser. Colin grabbed a late card for no apparent reason, other than being Colin.
Cambridge South played well at stages and a lot can be taken away from the game. Crostyx are in the running for promotion and South should feel proud to show that they are in amongst the front runners of the division. Three more games remain in the season, making nine points available for the taking (Jim, is this correct?)
MoM: P for scoring twice and being in the running for defender Goal King (perhaps even overall Goal King?) Mike gets a special mention for his high work rate.
LoM: Harry for his good feeling leading an atrocious forecast, especially with France beating the English. Special mention to Colin for smashing his beer in the clubhouse (he wasn’t even drunk).
It hasn’t quite been the season that South wanted, or even expected. The boys in purple haven’t managed to sustain the kind of form that saw them through much of last season. That said, winning their remaining three games could see them capture third place in the league, once again being the bridesmaid but never the bride.
The match started with South pressing hard and looking to take an early lead, which they managed after Cooper slapped in from short range only to have the goal disallowed due to an air shot being deemed out of control and dangerous. Bourne’s direct style of hockey never mounted a sustained threat but they probed around the D and managed to win a few short corners, and they were reward with the lead when South didn’t manage to clear the ball at a breakdown. The half played out with South putting pressure on the Deeping defence but never finding a goal, despite troubling the keeper multiple times.
The second half started as the first finished, with South grinding hard but getting nothing out of it. After ten minutes of this, the team suddenly seemed to click and entered a period of fast flowing hockey. They were immediately rewarded with a goal as Chris Walsh rifled in a lifted shot. With the ball moving faster, Bourne struggled to keep up and were once again broken down from quick play, Jack Chalk slapping home after good work from Edge and Mann. The period of dominance quickly faded though as Bourne continued to battle. South could not find their rhythm again and both teams saw the game out with scrappy play and half chances.
The game itself could be considered a microcosm of South’s season: toil and grind with the occasional flash of brilliance; hard fought but rarely comfortable victories; always steady but never sustained. I am the same. Ask my wife.
When you reach the business end of the season, thoughts of the big prizes at stake invariably add that extra frisson to the final fixtures. And prizes don't come much bigger than the contest for sixth place in East Men's League Division 4 (North-West). Yes, it was for the prospect of crunch games such as this that we had hauled our tired limbs back to the astroturf for another year in the far off halcyon days of autumn.
The start of the day found the Men's 3rd XIs of Cambridge South and Bourne Deeping locked together on a hefty twenty-eight points, with South sitting in the top half of the table only by virtue of goal difference. A seven point gap above us to fifth place, a nine point gap below to eighth; truly the season was poised on a knife edge for both teams. Who would be the ones able to quieten the jangling nerves, screw their courage to the sticking place and claim the victory and the glory?
Those of us gathering at Long Road had arrived within a mere fifteen minutes of captain Kern's appointed meet time, and had even managed to remember we would be playing in yellow. In fact, Ollie not only had socks (mustard - close enough) but also jacket (yellow) and stick (yellow), but sadly shinguards (none). Fortunately, Matt found some spares in the team holdall, and their XXXL size also meant that only one would be needed to cover both of Ollie's legs. Despite our slightly delayed departure, we still arrived at Glinton comfortably before Nev's car, our vice-captain apparently still, at this late point in the season, yet to locate third gear as he pootered along unconcernedly at the head of a line of frustrated tractor drivers.
To the game, and after our past few weeks of slow starts and conceding early goals, the message was to come out of the blocks strongly and give ourselves a platform to build on rather than a mountain to climb. The team harkened, and the start was duly positive. With MSG in goal and a pairing of Neil and Ash A in front, Pash and Chris providing pace and width outside, the captain screening behind the midfield duo of Joe and Ollie, Ed and Ash D flanking Dan up front, and Nevin and Tobias waiting to come on, it was a strong and balanced side.
The visitors looked the more threatening in the early exchanges, putting pressure on the Bourne twenty-three, but the hosts held their line well and fended off the South attacks without conceding anything in the D. The breakthrough eventually came midway through the half when Ed knocked a shot home from close range in a crowded D to give the away side the lead. Joe also had the ball in the goal but one of the umpires had spotted an infringement and, after a consultation with his colleague, the goal was chalked off and a sixteen awarded.
It seemed that South might take a one goal lead to half-time but Bourne levelled the scores shortly before the interval, the first short corners of the game giving Bourne's powerful striker a chance to fire off a cannonball of a shot that flew six inches above Neil's stick and inside the right post to pound against the backboard. South had had a warning of the potency of this strike immediately beforehand when Ed had charged down the preceding short corner, taking a shot full on that produced a nasty bleeding gash behind his shinpad. Other incidents of note were Ollie getting repeatedly warned by one of the umpires for holding his stick the wrong way (the curved end goes at the bottom, mate) and Dan similarly cautioned about not retreating five metres - his protests that he was just slow (in the head or the feet was not clarified) left the official unmoved.
While we grabbed a drink and some Tangfastics on the sidelines, Matt exhorted us to rediscover the pace and intensity of the opening period of the half. Paying all the attention we usually give to our captain's instructions, we duly conceded again shortly after the break, another short corner routine producing a near-post deflection from the second ball to give the home side the lead.
Bloodied (Ed, anyway) but unbowed, we regrouped and worked our way back into the game. Bourne were pressing their attacks down our left flank but we kept our composure and played it cool, most notably Ollie, who seemed chilled out to the point of incipient hypothermia with a clearance square across the top of our D that evaded the onrushing Bourne sticks by inches. But as Ollie pointed out, the key word was 'evaded' and we all breathed again.
As the half wore on we began to look more threatening. Toby was causing his usual problems in the attacking third, committing opponents and opening up play, while Nev, Ash and Dan were holding the ball and looking to bring teammates in. A typical clever upgrade by Nev won our first short corner of the game, and Ash A and Toby set themselves on the top of the D to receive it. The ball was teed up perfectly for Toby, who dragged it high to the keeper's right to bring South back on terms.
The goal seemed to give South a new lease of energy and more attacks soon produced another short. This time Ash A received it and as the runners closed him down, he slipped a pass under his arm square to Toby, whose low sweep arrowed home to put South ahead for the second time in the game.
With fifteen minutes still to play, the match was far from over. Bourne's heads didn't drop and the contest remained tight. The midfield were having to work hard, with Chris in particular covering every inch of pitch in a demonstration of ceaseless running, passing and tackling. The defence by and large held steady, with the focus on denying Bourne's centre forward another chance to unleash his thunderbolt shot. At one point he seemed clear on goal and about to strike, only for a last-gasp saving tackle from behind by Neil, who jabbed the ball away just before his shot could connect.
South closed out the remaining minutes without further scares, to take the palmarès and preserve our placing in the upper half of the table. Match teas were, as usual, at the Bluebell in Helpston, and definitely not at the Bluebell in Easton, as Ash A's car duly discovered. To be fair to Ash, there are six pubs called the Bluebell within a twenty minute radius of Glinton; originality in pub naming obviously isn't their strong point in south Lincolnshire. Nev's car also failed to appear for match teas, but it was unclear whether that was because he had gone directly home or was still driving the three miles from the pitch by the time we all left.
We returned to find that the M2s had grubbed out a two-one win over Bourne 4s at Long Road, to give us a double victory in the day's double-header. Just two matches left of the season now, both in Cambridge, including the tasty prospect of a final evening derby fixture against the M2s. Bring it.
A lively and competitive match ended with the M4s confirming the pecking order with a convincing victory, but it was never a pushover, as the M5s fought well throughout and never gave up. The local media, in the form of the Cambridge News, turned up to see the champions at play…or was the photographer just ninety minutes early for the proper M1s hockey on afterwards?
The magnificent seven were:
1-0…Man of the Match (again) Oli Anderson doing his silky dribling, juggling, shimmying thing culminating in an unstoppable shot.
2-0…him again, this time from a team move with Tim Clapp passing in to keyless Greaves, who's sharp shot came back off the excellent M5 keeper, Shahzad Ali, to Oli to accept gracefully and bury it.
3-0…short corner. JJ to Clapp to Paul South. Shot. Goal.
4-0…Clapp again, up the right wing, cross to Greaves, who shot first time across goal giving Shahzad no chance.
5-0…Paul South, driving into the D and pushing the ball over the keeper from seven yards out.
6-0…him again, from another JJ short corner. A bit of variation, with some surprising spin to confuse the keeper before finding the net.
7-0…JJ short corner. Clapp stop and a shot (or was it a cunning pass?) to JJ, lurking by the post to push the ball into the goal.
There were almost as many injuries, with Stu Creed coming off worst courtesy of Oli Anderson's shoulder being accidentally keen to share the same space as Creed's ribs. Ouch. John Greaves, when not prompting attacks with his typical calm and usually accurate passes (I write this history, so rose-tinted glasses outweigh the facts every time) showed off his diving/collapsing/agonised scream routine a couple of times, with no more than a bruised ankle and knee to show for it. This wasn't enough to prevent his "supportive" teammates from awarding the Lemon for blindness in the pre-match game of hunt-the-shed-key.
As for the hockey, the M4s played well, building on a new and assured defensive combo of Druett/Williamson/JJ/Piper; the cool PSouth/DocMarshman/TClapp gang in midfield making the most of the space, passing early and wide; Oli A bossing things in the centre, which all resulted in numerous chances. Lightning Wood was always a danger, not just to the perimeter fencing on this occasion, with many a dash up the wing and cross into the D, and Oli A's new apprentice, Oli W(eston), got in on the act with his own terrier-like moves.
I think George Toynton was playing. I heard him a few times shouting "encouragement", anyway. As it happens, he was called upon to make three or four stops, which he did confidently and effectively.
All good fun; the M5s were sporting and gracious in defeat, having played a full role in proceedings.
Next stop: the champions' curry.
With St Neots having failed to put a team together, the way was paved for an M4 v M5 “friendly”. Well, that is how it was labelled at least.
Clearly fearful of an upset, the M4s’ first tactic was to steal Oli Weston and James Piper from the M5s, claiming a lack of players.
That should have sealed it, but twenty minutes into the game the score was still nil-nil. Indeed, the M5s looked comfortable at the back, with Garth, Nick, Andi and David preventing even a shot on goal. What’s more, breaks from Stu Creed, Seb Dias and Mohammed “Chucky” Adnan, passing up to Andy Thomas and our new centre forward Ben Thompson, made the M5s look threatening. Then, with late arrivals Peter Creed and Alex West on the side lines ready to inject even more energy, time for tactic number two…take out Stu Creed with a fractured rib.
Having broken (literally) the M5s’ centre, the cracks began to show and Oli Anderson kept his cool to score twice, despite heroics from Man of the Match, Shahzad Ali, in goal.
At half-time Stu Creed bravely (or foolishly) decided to play on, but was reduced to dribbling due to pain on passing the ball (well at least that was his excuse). Peter Creed was switched to attack and Wilco/John Gourd to the centre. The tactic worked for a while, with Wilko and John holding out well, and the M5s were still able to pressurise the opponents’ D, with Seb Dias and Peter looking particularly threatening. But once the third goal went in against us, a tide of goals followed to leave it ending seven-nil.
A “cracking” game, in more ways than one!
And a big thank you also to our brilliant umpires, Guy W and Jan B. Guy W was being assessed during the match, and passed his Level 1 umpiring qualification with flying colours; and Jan B engaged with players, insightfully explaining to us in detail the reasons for his decisions during the game.
Having tried out our killer off-roading skills negotiainge the very muddy, holey car park, South eventually made it to the pitch for this weekend’s friendly against Royston. With it being a friendly we went easy on them, had some laughs - bit of an easy knockaround really – and had a really lovely time.
Lol. Jks. We crushed them. Three-one. Way to go, girls! We say friendly, but both teams have hugely important matches next week which will determine the league champions. So, with that in mind South set out to instill a bit of fear into our foes ahead of the weekend to come.
Coming out strongly, South immediately began the match pressuring the opposition’s D. It was only a matter of time until the first goals trickled in. And, finally, the moment came - Alice Wright had well and truly broken her goal curse. Three beautiful goals to bring victory home. They were beautiful.
By half time the score was two-one; a hard-fought half. Any team could take it. But then Alice came charging into the D with her third goal of the game to make it a hat-trick, shooting with a big windmill from the edge of the D to put the goal in the top right corner. This goal was huge. It was sensational. The sun came out, the birds sang and the crowds cheered (well…our two subs did, but hey, it was a spectacular goal).
Having filled my quota of worshipping Alice’s goals (you’re welcome, Alice), other things of note in the match were:
Hannah came a game closer to reaching the big one hundred.
Roisin and Amalia ran some very sneaky lines up the pitch, dancing around the Royston players.
Dani got on really well with the umpires – they even gave her a card, how kind!
Ellie wore her ice skates to hockey this week – but pushing the ball from her position on the ground did look very athletic, even if the umpires didn’t agree.
Louise made a couple of great saves.
Basically, the entire team played amazingly – well done everyone!
As the season rolls towards its end, South L3s travelled to play Ely City 3s for our penultimate league game. There was a sense of déjà vu in the air for the team, having already made the journey to Ely back in January only to have the game called off due to a flooded pitch.
The last time these two teams met, when South were at home back in October, the game saw South take the win ten-nil, so the team went into the game with the instructions from captain Laurie to get three points, make the number of league victories seventeen from seventeen, and keep a clean sheet.
With the signs of the season coming towards its end, the team began their warm-up with lots of exclamations of sore legs, stiffness and being hungover. The team began to practice their shorts, with Lauren caught snoozing on one occasion much to everyone’s amusement, and Kath requiring some on-pitch physio from Jess L before the game started. She dropped to the ground to have her legs stretched, only to very quickly exclaim, "Oooh, it’s wetter down ’ere than I thought!" This brief exclamation of discomfort made Kath worthy of LoM.
The first half began with Laurie choosing to shoot towards the club house and the bumpy D. Straight away, South were fast on the ball and quick to dominate possession, passing the ball nicely around the pitch and using the switchback to its optimum. But the team were soon to realise that Ely were going to play very defensively and put at least five players in the D at all times, making a wall for the team to break through to score.
After lots of great play around the team to move the ball up the pitch, South were eventually able to score through Tuffers ‘whacking it in.’ A second was soon to follow from Jess L, who managed to carry out a lovely hit towards the left post that deflected off the defender into the back of the net. The first half continued with South having most of the possession and making lots of attempts on goal through Kath, Tuffers, Lou, Jess W, Jess L and Lauren only to find the Ely five-player-row of defence solid. With several short corners awarded, South struggled to get their next goal as the Ely defence stayed strong. Some would say that Ely almost played with a second goalie. Just before half time, South were awarded another short corner and Tuffers managed to spot a slight change in the run out of the Ely defence and scored a lovely straight strike. The first half ended three-one.
With a super-long half-time break, after a discussion about how we could press Ely’s 16s better, Janette keenly stepping up to take one for the team standing at the front of the press and some very motivating words from Loopy, the second half began. South continued as we had left off in the first half, with lots of possession, and were soon to gain our fourth goal through a lovely strike from Tuffers. South continued to win most of the possession and battled the tough, slippery and sandy pitch conditions to score a further four goals through Lou (x3) and Jess W (apologies for the lack of detail on these goals; I cannot remember how they were scored). Ely managed to make a couple of breaks into our defensive half but were met by the strength of the back three, Sarah, Maria and Meg, who were quick to secure the ball and utilise the switch out wide to Hayley, Laurie and Janette. She might have been out of her usual position but Janette had a cracking game, holding her position on the left and managing to lead the press, regularly regaining possession of the ball. A very worthy MOM performance.
Overall another three points, a clean sheet and a seventeenth league win for South L3s, with lots of good hockey played by all and Loopy managing to not touch the ball for the whole game.