Another weekend comes and goes and three things are certain in life… 1) Mo Salah continues to set the fantasy football pace; 2) the M1s’ train rolls on; and 3) Harry Chalk forgets the third point.
The scene was set… Victories across the club throughout the day set the scene as the M1s pushed back at 3pm, facing an in-form St Ives team. The air lingered with a mixture of excitement and revenge - the M1s had blown a 3-0 lead away in the reverse fixture earlier in the season and wanted to set the record straight.
But this week was different… It was about one man…a local legend…a multiple Farmers’ Weekly pin-up…Chris ‘Centurion’ Pearson.
With the pre-match interview complete the M1s took to the field. The game was back and forth, a touch scrappy to be honest, but roared on by a strong home crowd the M1s started to take control and deserved the breakthrough to take a one-nil lead into half time. With the team regrouped and now ready to face St Ives’ long ball tactics, the game fell into a familiar pattern: South dominating possession and trying to build, with St Ives looking to play on the break.
Then mid-way through the half came the moment we had all been waiting for… Pearson picked up and broke at pace, round the keeper he went…wider…wider…wider… ‘Don’t shoot!’ cries came from everywhere…
………AND THE CROWD GOES WILD as the ball crashed into the backboard right in front of the gathering press.
From two-nil up the M1s controlled the remainder of the game and scored another couple of goals to take another three points. News filtered through that points had been dropped elsewhere and as early evening pizza was demolished the M1s enjoyed their beers…top of the league.
Great work all round but the weekend belonged to one man… A century of goals is an outstanding achievement and everyone in the team, club and farming community is proud of you… Bring on the next hundred, CP!
The ball breaks at the top of the D. Eyes widen, time slows, glory beckons. A shard of light falls on a ponderous-looking monobrow. Anns…
We arrive at base camp at Coldham’s Common Leisure Centre for the day’s early kick-off. Four minutes later and breathing heavily we’ve ascended the steep summit at the south-west corner of the pitch, and commence our poultry-based series of warm-ups.
Our erstwhile captain has announced pre-match that he will be deploying himself as more of a player-manager today. ‘I believe in you,’ he says, before lighting a large cigar, using a substitute as a footrest and throwing the clipboard in the general direction of one H. Chalk.
Hockey was then played. Some relatively unfit men chased around after some other relatively unfit men. Passes were made, balls were transferred, calf muscles were strained. ‘SYNERGY!’ shouted Captain Cooper, lying prone on the bench, his breath smelling of whisky.
Fifteen minutes into the game Mike Karran’s ‘Heat Map’ was displaying prodigious activity down the left hand side of Mill Road. Average speed an eye-catching twenty kilometres an hour as he flew along on his bike, only fifteen minutes late for the game.
However, cometh the twenty-five minute mark, cometh the man. Spikey Michael evaded a clutch of grey-haired defenders, looked up and saw a lone Menzies doubtless still in the opposition D from a previous attack. Duly found, Menzies dispatched it into the top corner of the net on the reverse / deflected it into an open goal from four yards. I know what I believe.
HALF-TIME: Cooper, now face-down on the subs’ bench, implores us to attack space, sounding like an increasingly vague Jean-Luc Picard.
Thirty-five minutes to hold onto a slender one-nil lead. Could we, notoriously-shaky-holders-of-slender-leads, hold on to this slender lead? Well, is Coldham’s Common astroturf pitch six-to-eight metres above sea level, depending on which end you’re playing at? Yes it is. And yes we could. Matthew Puddlefoot puddled, Chris Walsh walshed, at one point Jon Mann manned so hard that the umpire had to tell to please stop, because there were children present. All we needed was one more goal…
And then… Foot…whistle…short corner…
Even the birds had fallen silent. The ball rolls inexorably to the top of the D. Was someone in the distance playing ‘The Last Post’ on a bugle? Possibly not but that’s how I remember it. They say about Tom Anns that, ‘He was never the most talented, never the fastest and certainly never the strongest…’ end quote.
His stick arcs downwards, like an executioner’s blade. All twenty-two players braced for impact. The second Krakatoa.
As the Cambridge Evening News would later call it, ‘One of the finest air shots we’ve seen in thirty-five years of reporting.’
All that was left was the final whistle. The final whistle and those eyes. I’ll never forget the look in those eyes. Like a sad dog trying to understand astronomy.
We had Captain Kerny back so the preparations for the visit of the strong Kettering Men’s 2s side to Fortress Long Road felt slightly more professional than last week. We had a kit bag, warm up balls, enough shirts, and a team sheet – yes, doing it this way is much better. However, it was pointed out in the lead up that we did win four-nil last week with a somewhat disjoined arrangement. But being able to warm up without having to ask to borrow balls from the opposition is less embarrassing.
The game started at a fast pace. Kerny was keen that we kept up with Kettering, which we did. However, the visitors’ class was obvious as they pushed hard and pinged the ball around with a clear competence and confidence. South were not deterred so we chased and harried, tackling where we could and keeping possession when we had the ball, then attacking with verve ourselves. The back line of Adam and Dylan, and occasionally NBM, knew they were in for a busy afternoon, as one booming long ball after another was driven in by Kettering.
When he is not at Disneyland stalking Snoop-Dog, Joe is an assured figure in the middle, breaking up the play and distributing expertly, digging us out of trouble and getting from the back foot to the front quickly.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring when one of the long balls found its way through and the quick-acting attacker managed to scramble the ball under George. Their confidence clearly racked up a notch. South didn’t roll over though and matched the increased intensity, using the subbing process well to keep legs fresh. We stuck to the task of unsettling the opposition, Pip nicking the ball continually all over the pitch. We didn’t get the ball into the D frequently but when we did we were effective. On one occasion Ed dribbled up the right hand side around the back and, after he’d tried a couple of times to get the ball over the defender’s stick, and then after Joe had had a go, it finally fell kindly for me to mis-hit it into the keeperless goal (only beating the guarding defender because of the mis-hit – yeah for bobblers).
Levelling the scores invigorated South and led to a couple more chances before half time as we took control of the game and had the better of it before the break.
The half time chat was positive and, again due to having the chief back, more effective and constructive than last week. We were doing well - keeping it up would certainly mean we were in with a good shout of getting some points.
For the first ten mins we were great – playing some really good hockey and creating great chances, whilst maintaining solidity at the back.
Can’t remember which happened first but Joe scored a goal and tried to convince everyone he had scored another. Both instances were a long hit into the D where an attempt was made by Joe to nick/deflect the ball past the keeper. One of the instances he did nick it and scored (cue wild celebrations). The earlier instance (which I insist on not calling a disallowed goal, as it was no such thing) he was miles away from getting a nick to it (but cue even wilder celebrations). So one counted: two-one!
I should really have made it three-one but, whilst the crowd had swelled to its peak as the M4s had showed up, I completely missed a through ball from Pip which would have put us clean through. Cheers and groans from the sidelines.
Kettering huffed and puffed but couldn’t get back into the game – we’d got our heads in front and we weren’t going to give it up. Into the dying minutes, George made two fantastic saves to deny the visitors before the final whistle went and the points were kept in Cambridge!
At some point in the first half Nev got stuck in the challenges and was maybe a bit too rough and ready, taking no prisoners in the tumbles - unanimously running away with LoM for the second week in a row.
Surplus players in the top ranks of the club means lots of drop downs and some much-welcomed skilled players. One such player is ‘Lighting McQueen’, AKA Jimmy Wood, and another firm favourite, whom the M4s would dearly like to convince to remain but sadly he is still too good and in hot demand, is Neil Sneade. Neil, on the mend from a viral infection, performed at his customary best, denying the opposition strikers any opportunity to score. The delight and excitement of having Jimmy drop down was overwhelming. We all know what he is capable of and relished seeing the opposition struggle to keep up with his blistering pace, but unfortunately he suffered a hand injury three minutes into the first half resulting in a hasty exit to A&E; an even bigger tragedy is that he might be out for a while due to compound fractures in his left index finger. Get well soon, buddy.
So to sum up the day’s proceedings, South were victorious by one goal to nil at the final whistle but Leadenham weren’t push overs and made sure it would be a tight battle, so kudos to them. Our goal came compliments of Oli Weston, a bright young man whom has gone from strength to strength as the season has progressed, cementing his place within the 4s’ squad and earning him joint MoM with James Hayes. This being said, James’s performance on the day was exceptional. An athlete at peak performance, he has skills, speed and a defensive strength second to none. The man is everything a buding young hockey player would want to immolate growing up [Ed - I'm leaving that one in!]. James outclassed everyone in the central midfield position, bossing the opposition like a true soldier.
The new M4s’ skipper, but certainly not a novice by any standard, Mr Jan B returned after his extended travels abroad and forged a quality side for the day. His prowess as a captain could be exactly what the M4s need to ensure they stay in Div 5NW, avoiding relegation. On a more comical note, Jan managed to lose his voice only minutes from the start; perhaps a blessing in disguise for me, for had Jan been at full fog horn capabilities it could well have made the in-field bollixing I received for taking out an opposition player whom was possibly 4 x younger and 4 x lesser in body mass (fat) far worse… thank my lucky stars.
The forward paring of young Oli with South’s true foundation players, Rob Barton, Paul South and Stu Creed, each bring unique skills to the table, made life very difficult for the opposition. Stu had recovered from a fractured thumb and was back in full bloom with sniping runs, dribbling and scribbling, tying knots in the opposition; Paul somehow manages to find space and position himself perfectly - it’s become a signature skill, often rewarding itself with goals at the most opportune times; and finally but by no means last is Mr Barton - the Goal King of South has a deft touch and a calmness on the ball making him the envy of many, myself included.
Our midfielders Simon K, John G, Simon J, James H where fantastic, giving it their all and not allowing Leadenham an inch. Man marking was on point, work rate exceptional, providing throughput from the defence to the strikers. Lovely stuff to both watch and play among.
Our attaching short corners…mmm, just unlucky I think. Six in total: two wayward drag flicks, a cracker smash from John G and not even the almighty swoosh of the Monkster’s sword could penetrate the opposition box. But not to worry; heads up, guys, there is always next weekend.
Our goalkeeper on the day, George ‘Double Up’ Toynton, bored from his winning M3s’ game, was called into action a number of times, saving our skins and ensuring we would be victorious (enter the song by Muse – Uprising).
Cold day out but a warm encounter among friends, always a pleasure.
P.S. Jimmy got Lemon for not keeping his finger to himself. Harsh but true.
P.P.S. Big thanks to Andi C and Garth Weston for supporting from the team from the sidelines.
P.P.P.S. Pete Dreuitt made a brilliant come ack for the remainder of the game from what can only be described as either a super-clever tactical leave or a very sleepy ‘Ooops!’ first touch of the ball. Personally, knowing Pete it was definitely tactical. Well played, sir.
A slightly delayed start at Nomads’ HQ due to what initially looked like a very nasty head injury to one of their M1s’ players but fortunately turned out be not as serious as first thought.
South, fielding an experimental forward line up of Simon T, James Y and Tendayi R due to missing stalwarts Rob B (M4s) and John G (sore knee), made a lively start immediately pushing deep into the Nomads’ half. Despite this initial dominance, keeper Mikey G was called on to make some spectacular saves on several occasions when Nomads managed to breach the robust South midfield and defence. One such attack led to the rare sight of Al 'Rock' Radford floored by a heavy challenge, enabling the home team to take the upper hand in what up to then had been a match largely dominated by the visitors.
Undeterred, South continued to defend hard and press forward with spirited runs from Simon T, Jo D and Andy T, only to be thwarted by some equally spectacular saves from the Nomads’ keeper.
At half-time the consensus in the South goal was that the match was still well within our grasp, but hopes were soon dashed by a second from the opposition. At this point heads could have easily dropped but this wasn't on the South agenda as we continued to pressurise the Nomads’ defence both from open play and a series of well-choreographed short corners. One such raid down the right wing found LoM maestro Andy T perfectly positioned to beat the agile Nomads keeper. This rattled the opposition and South continued to push hard for the equaliser into the dying moments of the match but the clock beat us, so it wasn't to be.
MoM was overwhelmingly awarded to Michael G for a truly amazing performance (matched by the Nomads’ keeper) that kept both sides’ goal tallies to a minimum.
LoM was a much closer call between Andy T (for nothing other than scoring a fantastic goal?) and John G, the latter sealing it for blaming his elegant dying swan impression from last weekend’s Wisbech match for apparently left him incapacitated!
The main post-match talking point however was how well we raised our game despite being two goals down to come close to securing what would have been a very well-deserved draw and rattle a team fighting for promotion, on their home territory. Something we can all be very positive about as we head towards what will be an equally challenging fixture against St Ives 4s next weekend.
Arriving at the three-pitch hockey metropolis that is CCHC, it was a cold start to derby day on Saturday against City. With captain McLean out this week with a broken thumb, responsibility fell to vice-captain B-Murph to lead the girls to victory.
The opening exchanges saw both teams threaten with a number of attacks, none of which prevailed. South started to gain the upper hand, creating plenty of opportunities in City’s D. Unfortunately no one could find the magic touch to convert; Laura and Maddy with the best opportunities. City were always ready to counter, however South’s defence was excellent. Lots of tracking and flat stick tackling - special mention to MoM Robs Murray who controlled the right channel with block tackle after block tackle, thwarting many City attacks.
Half time, nil-nil.
Second half started in much the same way as the first finished but with more girls making friends with the floor. Just a few shout outs to the memorable falls: Flo, Katie, Alison AND Maddy! Maddy earned herself LOM - as the ball came over her shoulder she looked to turn, however in the process pirouetted and face planted the astro!
The City keeper had to make some crucial saves to keep her side level. It was only a matter of time before ever-reliable Laura finally broke the deadlock and struck gold, scoring the only goal of the match. It doesn’t matter how it goes over the line, it just needs to go over. City put the pressure on in the last few minutes of the half, but once again South’s solid defence came through to see the game out.
Final score one-nil, three points in the bag, clean sheet. Up to third in the table.
South vs City: local derby and potentially the biggest match for the L2s this season. It didn’t disappoint. With City just below us in the league, they are one of only a few teams to rival our position at the top and we had all morning to get nervous about it. We are the only team in the league to have taken points off them so far this season, so knew we just needed to repeat. Deciding it would be warmer to have our team talk outside, we conducted a high-intensity warm up before Izzy MP and H prepped us for the battle ahead.
South (as usual) started strong, and quickly converted a short corner with a perfectly timed straight-strike from Izzy MP (three in three weeks). Sadly, City got one back and then converted another to put them ahead. We were not put off. Excellent work from the attack gave us another short, which Hannah slotted in after a well-worked routine from Sam and Izzy MP to draw us level.
Half time was a tense affair, but an excellent team talk and some jelly baby fuel meant we came out fighting in the second half. The defence worked solidly to stop the speedy City players from entering the D. On the occasions they did manage a shot, Louise was on hand to pull off some cracking saves. There were some textbook passes round the back, endless running from the midfield and some pacy sprints up the wings from Sam and Izzy E. The work paid off with a great run from Izzy E who fed the ball through to Eimear, who gave it to Izzy MP to find the back of the net. We were now on a roll, and after a flick from Izzy MP rebounded off the keepers face, Eimear swung the ball in at head-height to score an amazing goal. Four-two to South.
City got another goal at some point but I can’t remember when. This is probably as I was too busy taking myself out and face-planting the pitch. Unsurprisingly I received little sympathy (direct quote from Izzy MP 'Up you get Lauren, on your feet!'), and a total of twelve Lemon votes. South then began to dominate and concluded the match with another team goal from Izzy E and Hannah.
Lots of different MoM votes showed that everyone had stepped up to the game, but Louise’s stunning saves and dives gave her a well-earned MoM. Final score five-three. The L2s are still undefeated and still top of the league.
There was snow across the hills of the UK. A random flurry in Cambridge was spied by at least two members of the team… Winter was indeed coming for Cambridge Nomads, particularly because Louisa’s new weapon(/stick) was having its first outing. Their team started with some pressure and within ten minutes South had conceded two short corners. It soon evened out and with a few breakthroughs from South it was two-all (short corners, not goals). From one of these there was a goalline scramble. The ball was slipped out to Zara, who was clearly battle ready with her cat-like reactions and volleyed it into the goal. ONE NIL TO SOUTH!!!!! Clearly this gave South an injection of intensity because in the next minute another short corner meant another goal, this time sneaked in by Rhi. TWO NIL TO SOUTH!!! The rest of the half we stayed strong and Nomads barely had a look in. Ended with a short with the whole team up. Would it be THREE NIL TO SOUTH at half time? No. It wouldn’t.
The second half the Nomads came back a little stronger. After a short very enthusiastically (if a bit early) defended, Nomads scored an unstoppable goal. In the heat of the ensuing battle some fell (Rhi, Louisa and Emily all earning LoM votes for these), some were pushed (even if Kath didn’t notice and had to have it pointed out by the umpire), and at one point a Nomads player needed an ice pack. This, offered by umpire JJ, came spinning through the air with such backspin that it nearly hit Zara in the face - but in the end it boomeranged wonkily until it landed at his feet. LoM votes were definitely deserved there. After this, possibly attempting their revenge, Nomads kept up pressure on us. Lydia made loads of quite frankly epic saves, earning her joint MoM. Emily made plenty of breakaway runs and we had a few more nail-biting attempts on goal. Nomads then conceded a free hit, where Louisa (and her new stick) sent the ball hard at the perfect angle and, with the sort of teamwork that makes the dream work, it was guided along its route expertly and with flair by Rhi (who shares MoM with Lydia) so that it landed inside the near post. THREE ONE TO SOUTH!!! THE CROWD WENT WILD!!!
Nomads kept us on our toes but couldn’t claw back a victory. MoM votes for each of Laurie, Kath, Ani, Jas and Louisa: winners were jointly Lydia and Rhi. LoM votes for each of Emily, Louisa, and Rhi: overall winner of today’s Lemon award to JJ.
After last week’s injury and a trip to A&E with my arm well out of action, from the sheer boredom of not leaving the house all week and my pure love of hockey, I came to Newmarket to support from the sidelines. Upon leaving my house and nearly being blinded by the sun I went straight back inside to grab my sunnies, feeling hopeful for some good weather and a potential tan.
On arrival to Newmarket I quickly realised this was not to be the case but the sunglasses stayed as I nabbed extra layers. By the time the match finished I couldn’t feel my fingers on either hand. But the weather didn’t dampen any spirits. After a quick team talk, with one of the aims of the game being sticking on players tight, Laura’s words were quickly interpreted as, ‘Pretend the players are “the cream to your cake” and “the ball to your sack”’.
With these words running through everyone’s heads, the match started very defensively as Newmarket pushed hard. Despite the efforts from the defence (commendable performances from all) and Lou’s efforts in goal, Newmarket managed to sneak a couple of goals past. This only drove South to push harder, turning play around with a number of one-on-ones between Jess and the Newmarket keeper (including a good few tumbles - in her boyfriend’s words, “Like a salmon out of water.”)
The first goal was scored just as the umpire blew for a short due to Newmarket feet. Frustratingly not allowing the goal, we were determined to make this count. Again the ball was heading for the goal but was kicked off the goal line from a Newmarket player therefore resulting in a very tense flick being awarded to South. With everyone rooting for Jess and a camera at the ready, she stepped up to take it with a fantastic flick resulting in South’s first goal of the game. The second goal came shortly after this, scored again by Jess. The final score did not reflect the efforts made from South and the determination and drive from everyone on the pitch (and off).
With some great play from everyone, MoM votes went to Annabel, Jess, Alex, Elaine, Nicky and Lou, with Jess winning for her fantastic goals (especially that flick)! LoM was a joint winner again this week, going to Elaine (for stopping a couple of balls with her knee instead of her stick) and Jess (for having too much cuddle time on the floor with the goalie), with votes also going to Lou, Ginny and Tess.