Much like Maddie Hinch’s preparation for the 2016 Olympus Games, no sport team has ever achieved greatness without doing their homework. In our case, dissecting the playing style of mid-to-lower table Div 2N powerhouse Dereham 2s and, in Maddie’s case, the Dutch national side and her little red book. So Friday night saw a barrage of strategic hockey chat on how to combat the Norfolk town’s unusual and direct formation. After much discussion, we settled on putting more balls in their goal than they do in ours and, with that, went to bed.
This turned out to be a sensible strategy. The first half of the game saw Dereham struggle to cope with the intensity of play that has come to characterise South’s games of late. With extra substitutes on South’s side, keeping that pressure on their back line was manageable early on, but it wasn’t until Tommy K scored from a set piece penalty corner that the deadlock was broken. Dereham rallied and (as discussed) sent a number of balls over the top in an attempt to break up the close press. Doug, Joel and Mariano all comfortably stepped off their man to soak up the incoming bombardment. Hinch would be proud.
As we attacked again, play from Bailey and Chalk ended with Pearson breaking free at the top of the D. He fired off a shot but it never quite did more than roll towards the goal. The keeper was off his line, but thankfully Hockley was on the back post to ensure the ball cross the line unhindered. Two-nil.
As the first half came to a close, South had equalled their goal tally from their first encounter with Dereham with additional goals from Chalky, Lewis and a second from Tommy K, counting five in total.
In the second half, South took the foot off the gas a bit. Space opened up in the midfield, giving Dereham a glimmer of hope going forward, their midfield players beginning to find the kind of form that had punished South with three goals in the last fixture. This time round though, Fortress Long Road held firm and South absorbed the attacks with minimal stress. Dereham battled on and looked threatening for brief spells, but another penalty corner goal, this time from resident Kiwi Paresh, sealed the deal and saw South take the victory at six-nil.
It’s worth noting that history is always written by the victors and, in this case, of the six goals scored that day one will always stand out from the rest for being of the quality that even Maddie Hinch wouldn’t have predicted possible in her little red book.
Tantalus (Ancient Greek: Tántalos) was a Greek mythological figure, most famous for his eternal punishment in Tartarus. He was also called Atys.
He was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink.
He was the father of Pelops, Niobe and Broteas, and was a son of Zeus and the nymph Plouto. Thus, like other heroes in Greek mythology such as Theseus and the Dioskouroi, Tantalus had both a hidden, divine parent and a mortal one.
According to other sources, his father was Tmolus or Manes, the first king of Lydia.
Late availability changes have been the Achilles’ heel of the Men’s 3s this season (along with Neil’s Achilles’ heel): midweek squad updates from the captain have come to be regarded as less believable than something you may find written on the side of a bus. And so it proved again this week for our trip to Wisbech. We lost Adam to an injury-related call up by the M2s. Ollie meanwhile dropped out claiming the calls of his profession - we can only assume it was an archaeological emergency but Indiana Jones wasn’t available and they needed someone else who owns a white dinner jacket.
When we last met these guys, we were sitting bottom of the pile on two points with our opposition just above us on three. Half a season later, we had hauled ourselves up to eighth position with twenty-one points to our name while Wisbech were still nursing those three. The home fixture had been tighter than you might suppose though, scoreless until two late goals settled it for South.
Before pushback there was talk about needing to avoid complacency and start strongly. Mind you, there was also some talk about scoring six or seven, so it seemed not everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet. That theme followed into the opening part of the game, where it was the home side that seized the initiative and the M3s finding themselves on the back foot. Despite the pressure in the visitors’ half, the most alarming moment came from a route-one lofted aerial from Wisbech’s back line following a South attack, which both their forward and Neil, stood behind him, missed, allowing a Wisbech runner to burst through from midfield on to the loose ball with only half an empty pitch and George in front of him. The South keeper held his nerve though, narrowed the angles and the striker’s shot was saved and cleared away to safety.
Gradually though, we started to get into our stride. NBM, Ali and Joe in the centre began to take a hold of the game, while Josh and Pash at full back were able to get up the pitch more to connect with Jonny and Oven in the channels, with Nev harrying and hassling up top. Play was still a bit direct and narrow, with too much running into contact and attempts to thread the ball through rather than around the opposition, but chances were starting to come.
The breakthrough came from a short corner by Joe. His hit was off the ground but the keeper’s attempted save came off his leg guards rather than anything higher, which seemed to persuade the umpires that the ball had been at legal height, and the goal stood. A short while later and it was Oven’s turn to get on to the score sheet, a firm shot into an unguarded net as a loose ball fell invitingly to him in front of goal. Almost immediately, a third was added, this time from a magnificent instinctive volleyed strike on the turn from Jonny, close in front of the goal, ricocheting the ball into the netting.
At half time the general consensus was that we were in a solid position but hadn’t played our best hockey - well apart from Nev, who proclaimed that he personally had had a great half, making some excellent leads. It was good to know that one person anyway was satisfied.
South continued to press in the second half but the next goal was proving elusive. Posts were hit and balls flashed across the Wisbech goal but nothing was going in. Despite that, the South defence rarely looked under serious pressure and the result appeared secure. Then, with ten minutes to go, a through ball into the South D saw George come flying out of his goal as Neil, turning to chase, fell to the ground like he’d been shot. In contrast to his steely coolness in the first half, this time George’s innate banzai nature reasserted itself as he completely wiped out the onrushing attacker who, to add injury to insult, landed on George’s knee, leaving the keeper lying prone on the pitch alongside his defender.
Two down from a squad of twelve and a p-flick awarded…suddenly the last ten minutes weren’t looking so comfortable. Fortunately after a few minutes George’s knee had recovered enough that he was able to take his position in time to retrieve the p-flick from his net. Neil’s calf, though, wasn’t up to continuing and he had to limp over to the touchline for the remaining minutes. The disruption and concession seemed to affect the M3s and the last ten minutes, if not quite a siege, certainly saw Wisbech in the ascendency as any thoughts of another goal for the visitors turned into a rearguard action to secure the result.
Over plates of curly fries and chicken goujons - there was some debate about whether they were nuggets or goujons, and the difference between them - MoM voting produced a clear win for Jonny, with eight out of twelve votes. Honourable mentions to Ali for lots of running and passing; Sev caught someone's eye with his ‘Great balls and long…' I think it says, ‘passes’…?; and Nev who got two votes ‘For eating’, with an impressive entry in the team’s ‘Who can eat a whole chocolate doughnut in one mouthful’ challenge. The LoM voting was more keenly contested, with George’s rush of blood and Neil’s dramatic late fall (not to mention forgetting his towel and having to dry himself with his yellow umpiring shirt) both in contention. Ultimately though, the vote was sneaked by Nev, both for his half time commentary on his own performance but really sealed when he walked back into the changing room from the showers and declared, ‘Well, that was f***ing intense!’ It certainly was, Nev.
South’s M4s turned up to Long Road to face Horncastle, ready to go ahead of a crucial match that could help decide the fate of both teams. Horncastle were four points and one league place behind South, but most importantly, they were the wrong side of the relegation line, something we were very keen to keep that way. A win here was essential.
We formed up in a slightly unusual 4-3-3 with some interesting, but slightly perplexing, tactics and roles. Jan finally decided to let Pete off the leash that he had been gnawing at for some time now and the plan was to blitz Horncastle with speed and width since they had only turned up with eleven and we had some super subs.
The game got underway in a very atypical M4s style (basically we didn’t spend the first ten minutes remembering that we were actually on a hockey pitch and were expected to do something) with some great flowing hockey from Pete, Oli Scott, and Oli Weston linking together nicely along the right wing. It turns out Jan does know a thing or two about hockey and his tactics were working a charm, and soon enough we fought our way into their D and took the lead with an absolute screamer from Dan Loy. This one has sealed my vote for goal of the year, hands down. It was a reverse stick wonder strike from almost the edge of the D that managed, somehow, to make it just over the line. I think Horncastle’s goalie must have blinked at least seven or eight times to miss that one. In all seriousness, Dan did well to get the strike off in a very crowded D and our great start to the match was rewarded with the goal.
Horncastle tried their best to come back at us; Jan, JJ, and Simon K excellently marshalling the attacks to thwart them as best we could; but we would have potentially been behind had it not been for Mike between the sticks stringing together a series of wonder saves. All in all we made it to half time with the score still at one-nil despite Paul and Rob giving the goal a good peppering, and we were feeling good.
Jan’s team talk was, as always, inspiring and the Haribo gifted by super-supporter Andi Caddy went down a treat; cheers, dude! We knew what we needed to do to win and were ready to go.
The second half started in the same fashion that the first had ended, with lots of free-flowing hockey and both sides evenly matched. Seb, Dan, Oli (S), and John all did superbly and had their work cut out for them in the middle to keep up with the pace of the game. Simon Jelley was running himself ragged out on the left wing, trying everything to bring the ball round the back of them and create some magic, but we couldn’t quite pull it all together and convert the play to goals.
We could sense that Horncastle were tiring; the few minutes of respite they had had at half time weren’t quite enough and we had every chance to break through, get another goal and hopefully some breathing room with it. Attempting one such break I took a very quick free hit that ended up at the feet of the opposition who hadn’t quite gotten five. I decided to forcibly move him…I shoved him out the way and quite rightly earned myself a yellow card, some time on the naughty step and Lemon of the match.
Horncastle took full advantage of the short-handed M4s and pressed us hard, and yet again Mike came to the rescue stopping everything that they could throw his way. Unfortunately, this came to an end with a spectacular drag flick from a penalty corner that creeped into the top corner of the goal, chipping some paint off the underside of the bar on its way in. They had tied the match. In the remainder of the half both teams gave their all to get that winning goal but the match ended all square: a disappointing result.
Well what to say? The score line isn't a true story of the match…
We all played well in long periods of the game, but it's true to say we scored one out of about ten chances. We need to improve that ratio somewhat me thinks.
They had half the chances and scored four: The True Story of the 5s' season…
A true story of the ringers as well - it's funny that they lent us a young player [Jonah played great], but kept the ringer.
Maybe the truest moments of the match were young Jonah 'nutmegging' their older players at the back; a true YouTube moment or what?
I think that because Andy was not there, I got Lemon. How true? I don't know… But I'll take it! I'll be true to myself: passionate and vocal!
Onward to the next match… Let's score goals, guys!
This is your true Lemon with the match report, truly signing off…
We arrived at the changing room (thanks to Maddy's detailed instructions) only to be greeted by the delightful aroma of the local cows and the local boys. This city girl was in for a shock!
Yellow shirts on and matching yellow jumpers (who is this new Maddy?) and we were ready for the warm up. A quick warm, in what can only be described as tropical temperatures, and we were ready to get going. But hold up, where was our starting centreback, Amalia? Our Argentinian girl has clearly become acclimatised to the UK weather and had to dash off for a quick change. With seconds to spare she rushed onto the pitch and we were ready to go!
South started off a little shaky. Bourne Deeping were making quick passes which were hard to pick off; they were looking good. However we held our ground and picked up their players with solid man to man marking. An unfortunate foot in the D and we gave away an early penalty. Bourne Deeping started off with a straight strike: an initial great save by Loopy but BD capitalised on the rebound and scored. One-nil.
After a change in formation South started getting into their stride. Flix was making exciting play on the right hand wing, Amalia was playing out her skin (literally - she took it off pre-match) on the left hand side, making solid tackles and interceptions that stopped any further attacks from the opposition. We made progress into the D and won a short which went just wide. We were playing very positive hockey.
Second half. Again another strong start from South with the majority of play in the opposition half. Another close short corner with South just missing out: almost an Alice Hug classic smack down into the goal, we were unlucky to miss out on getting a goal.
BD caught us on the break and managed to make it into our D. With a lifted ball they won a short corner. Another straight strike and BD managed to get it into the bottom left hand corner. Two-nil.
Man of the match goes to Amalia for an absolute stormer in the defence. Special mention to Sausage Moo (Maddie W) for her unbelievable hit outs from the sixteen, making interceptions and holding up BD from catching us on the break.
Lemon vote goes to Blythe, an overextension which led to a classic Maddy fall on my bum, completing on my own. As I was dramatically tumbling to the ground, my life flashing before my eyes. All I could think was, "These girls love a fall, I am getting Lemon"
Shout out to Maddie's mum for bringing us classics like "Maddie moo" and "Sausage moo" at match teas. She is never going to live this down!
Unlucky to not get a point from this game but onwards and upwards.
Following Jan’s preview we all knew what we needed to do today, and we didn’t disappoint. A team full of ten-out-of-ten players, trained by a ten-out-of-ten coach, walked on to the pitch at 3pm with every intention of becoming champions of 4NW(S).
The first half was a little nervous, and Newmarket certainly weren’t in the mood to make things easy for us. We applied some strong pressure in the attacking half, but Newmarket made some good touches and had a couple of convincing breaks. However, our press was strong, forcing Newmarket to pass the ball wide and high, opening up the first few opportunities. There were a few near misses and the Newmarket goalie cleared another couple. Finally, at the end of the first half, following a scramble around the goalmouth, Dani A with perfect skill and timing pulled off a clean reverse flick over the fallen goalie for our first goal! The first half finished with us in the lead after Ana made a fantastic save to sweep the ball off the goal line.
The team talk was delivered by our super captains, and we realised we all needed to play a little smarter rather than harder and to work around the Newmarket players with strong, clean passing. The second half started well, and any balls which did stray were cleanly swept back up the pitch by H, Charlotte and Grace, who certainly didn’t need a sub today!
Jenny played a blinder in the sweeper role, flying through layers of Newmarket players with her slick stick skills. The press continued to force Newmarket wide and Jas showed off her pace and determination, dribbling the ball up the left flank to create more opportunities for South and putting herself in a fantastic position to score a beautiful goal.
We had a few practice shorts which didn’t go in, but then we hit the mark with good passing between Izzy and Dani A in the D allowing Dani A to flick the ball into the goal, followed by a cracker of a strike from Izzy to add to the goal tally.
For my own part, I haven’t scored all season, so finding myself in a one-on-one ‘ball stuck between two sticks scenario’, I persevered to win the ball (and send the opposition’s stick flying) and somehow the ball (I am told, very slowly) made its way past the keeper and just managed to roll over the goalline! Dani A then completed her standard hat-trick performance for the second week in a row to bring the final score up to six-nil.
As the whistle called final time, the “champagne” (all non-alcoholic of course) found its way on to the pitch and we all celebrated and posed for photos for the Cambridge News, enjoying another solid performance and most importantly confirming our Champions title and our promotion! This season has been a true team performance and very well deserved – congratulations everyone!
LoM was me for getting tangled up in a football goal retrieving a ball. MoM went to the fantastic Jenny for continuous drives up the middle.
And just in case anyone had any doubt:-
Our L3s started strongly and within the first five minutes Erin had scored a fantastic goal, set up by Rhi and Emily.
In the first eight minutes of the game there were several strong attacks down the middle of the pitch which really tested St Ives’s defence.
Within these lively ten minutes, our defence was tested by St Ives’s attack but they stopped them from getting close to our goal.
Fifteen minutes in and the L3s set up another exciting play and cut through St Ives’s players with a great pass from Laurie to Erin, then on to Tess, ending on a near miss across the goal. Then in quick succession, Rhi and Erin nearly scored another.
Twenty minutes into the first half, St Ives managed to get two short corners, but our fantastic goalkeeper and defence put this threat to bed.
Towards the end of the first half, St Ives’s attack increased in intensity to try and equalise. But this was halted by two great saves from our goalkeeper, Lydia.
St Ives came back and played strongly but the ball moved up and down the pitch equally.
Our defence held up well against St Ives’s attacks and every time we lost the ball in midfield, we were quick to win the ball back.
St Ives made a few errors when they won the ball, which we capitalised on as much as we could.
Fifteen minutes into the second half; St Ives made three attacks on our goal, but our defence held them off again.
Twenty minutes in, Laurie made a great pass upfield to Irina who pushed up the field and passed on to Emily, who shot at the goal, forcing St Ives’s goalkeeper to make a good save.
St Ives’s counterattack got stronger and within the last eight minutes they won three short corners, and on the final one they put a set play together and manage to score a goal with just seconds to spare.
Final score: one-all draw.
All in all, it was a clean game with end to end action and an exciting finish. It was a shame that we did not get the win.
[Captain's edit: as Tabby wasn't at teas - MoM & LoM were both very clean cut affairs this week. MoM having four nominees, one each for Ani & Louisa, then two for Lauren's inpenetrable defensive efforts, but run away winner with seven votes was Irina for her tireless, running all across the pitch through the game. LoM however was unanimous… Most notably for the fact Rhi escaped without a single vote (unheard of this season)! Even more remarkable, I think you went a whole game without falling over or taking a ball to the head! Reflective of a game where no did anything particularly stupid… Tabby's recurring nemesis of her own unruly shoelaces secured her everyone's vote. My favourite commentary being, "LOM: Tabby - Velcro Trainers?"]
The afternoon started with zero sun in sight, plenty of cloud and a few spits of rain. A discussion over how many times everyone checked, double-checked and triple-checked the meet time: we were still playing a very late-feeling 5pm game. After skipping teas at the morning match I grabbed the most nutritional food the bar had to offer…crisps and a slushy…
With a warm up on the running track (to inspire extra speed in the game) we were ready to go. The two sides looking very even at the start with some great passes from the midfield up to the forwards. We had a good few attacking shorts in the first half, however St Ives had a strong defence and no goals resulted from these.
The first and only goal of the game came from a ball hit into the D by Zara and finished by Jess and Iona doing some beautiful play around the keeper, resulting in Iona scored her second goal for South! St Ives began to man mark very tight but only very selectively, with Emma running around letting her player follow her to random areas of the pitch in a game of tag.
Katie and Lou cleared some fantastic balls from defence sending them up to Liz, Annabel and Harriet, spreading the play nicely. The final two minutes were played very defensively by South with St Ives putting in a final scrappy effort to try and score but South held strong, with a lovely ball coming up the pitch when the final whistle went.
Lou got MoM for fantastic defensive play, great runs and interceptions. As with the last three weeks’ wins, we also didn’t concede a goal for the third week running, and for the second time that day Zara got LoM for her fragile state.
This was another excellent and enjoyable match for the L5s. Zara arrived very hung over (tried to blame George for this) and was ill a few times before the match. It was going to take a spectacularly lemon-worthy incident from someone else to steal the citrus crown, and no-one managed it.
There was some excellent defensive work in this match. Letchworth had 2 short corners early on which were successfully saved and cleared. Sarah, Alex, Laura and Sammy were strong and consistent with their man marking throughout. Alex did a great job of hassling and channelling away attacking players, and Sarah made some great clearances and accurate hit outs.
There was excellent play down the wings from Eloise and Sammy B, both showing great ball skills and some will timed tackles. Elaine worked really hard and managed to be everywhere in midfield, and all of this helped us to win and retain the ball more successfully that in last week’s game.
South won a short corner about mid way through the first half. Zara took the strike, Fi had a follow up shot and after a bit of a scramble, Bex finished it off to put South in the lead. South continued to play excellent hockey. Eventually Letchworth made it through our defense and round Lou to score an equaliser.
We entered the second half in positive mode and eager to win. Zara put us back in the lead with a shot that went in via a defender’s stick, scoring her first goal not only for South but in her life, and quite rightly was very excited. It proved to be a vital one soon, as Letchworth scored a skilful equaliser, drawing the defense away and getting a clever looping shot.
Overall another fantastic match. If this report is a bit defense focused it’s cos I can’t see very well what’s going on in the other D! Zara was the clear and well deserved MoM for her goal but a spread of votes for the rest of the team reflects how well we played together as a team.