The conditions for this re-scheduled game couldn't have been much more of a contrast to the original fixture a mere three weeks earlier. Blue skies and double digit temperatures greeted the visiting M5s team at the rather confusingly named Bishop's Stopford School.
This was never going to be an easy fixture on an unfamiliar pitch and against a team firmly occupying the top spot in Div 6 NW(S) with only one defeat so far this season.
Nevertheless, the away team got off to a characteristically strong start, neutralising several penetrating incursions from a well-disciplined Kettering attack, whilst launching several sorties of our own into the opposition twenty-three. Despite the presence of defensive heavyweights Alan 'Rock' Radford and JJ, the away team were able to able to break through the South back four on several occasions only to be thwarted by some super-human keeping from Michael G. One such attack resulted in a shot towards the top corner being skillfully deflected by JJ…alas, into the South net.
Unbowed, the South defence of JJ, Rock, David B, James H and Shahzad continued to repel everything the home team could throw at us, with MoM Michael G continuing to make many seemingly impossible saves including one reminiscent of a Hugo Loris punch…anyone would have thought he was a football keeper! Eventually however, the visitors succumbed to the pressure, conceding a second goal. Yet with the unwavering tenacity shown in so many games this season, South fought back securing a first half consolation from a neatly executed short corner, culminating in a perfectly dispatched 'JJ drag-flick'.
In the second half the considerable gap in experience and fitness between the two teams started to show with South conceding a further three goals, all but one from open play. Yet over the seventy minutes, the South team defended probably fifteen to twenty short corners (the most I've ever seen in a match!), with only one being converted. This undoubtedly kept the opposition score in single figures and is testament to the skill and tenacity of the South defence and keeper.
MoM was a close contest between Michael G and the 'Rock' with the former taking it for some truly spectacular saves!
LoM went to back-in-form lemon maestro, Andy T, for making pushback with seconds to spare and completely failing to find the match teas venue!
The L4s turned up at Newmarket in the beautiful sunshine, unlike the previous attempt to play this match which had been postponed due to the snow. The team were all motivated to make this the fourth clean sheet in a row.
The match started off reasonably even, though South managed a few shots on goal throughout the first half. Newmarket broke through on a couple of occasions, but the South defence worked effectively to prevent them getting too close to the goal. South kept their positions and were passing well between themselves. Late in the first half, the determination in the team paid off and Tess scored her first goal of the game. Shortly before the half-time whistle went, and with Newmarket starting to tire, she managed to score her second goal.
Newmarket came back fighting after half-time, but our defence stayed strong and Ana made a couple of great saves, preventing them from scoring. South carried on playing well as they did in the first half and had a few shots during the second half, though we didn't manage to score.
Overall though, South completed what they set out to do… Another win, another three points, and the fourth clean sheet in a row. Great work, girls!
24th February 2018 = The first day of the Beast from the East
23rd February 2019 = Harry Lewis's attempt to outdo his sunburn from last year’s Annual Dinner
It was a beautiful and sweaty day at Fortress Long Road, as Hannah & Ollie's plan to go with minimal subs was testing everybody's ability to stay hydrated.
Catley had of course whipped out his old faithfuls for the occasion (the veeeery snug trousers that we're not sure aren't meant for golfing or casual black tie events…). With rousing words to get their respective teams ready to go into battle, the mixed captains set up with the L1s’ formation and got to work. There were mutterings that the teams were slightly mismatched, as Hannah played her, ‘It’s my birthday’ card to pick a mixture of the M1s’ and L1s’ defensive back-line, but the first half would prove the saying, ‘Too many chefs spoil the broth,’ as Ollie’s Yellows grouped together to pull some great teamwork out of the bag.
Three minutes in, Douglas and/or Harry threw an aerial to the top of the Purples’ defensive D, where Rosselli’s albinism let him down as he manically waved his stick around in the air yelling, 'My eyes, my eyes,' and subsequently missed said aerial. Daz, having fully expected the Purples’ ginger ninja to pick the ball, panicked as the ball reached Alice, came out to the top of the D where she sensed his presence and tapped it on to her reverse for a strike bottom corner.
After the first subs rotation, with everyone getting a little delirious from the classic British February heatwave, Nik managed to get a nutmeg past the keeper to equalise the score line at one-all.
There continued to be some great play from both teams, as the ball was worked from end to end (and not just by Bailey going for a run). This resulted in a few short corners for the Yellows, one of which would end with an injection from Harry, a strike from Alice and a dive from Douglas for the deflection into the bottom right corner.
Half time came around, there were jelly babies eaten and plans set for the second half… The Yellows discussed keeping composure, not diving when James had the ball and offering pocket passes for Jaz as she drove up the left wing. The Purples discussed, ‘Stop just tw*tting it from the top of the D,’ and came up with a cunning plan to triple-man mark the Yellows’ high forward (Alice or Harry).
The second half is going to be bullet pointed as by this point everybody had just lost their minds.
Seb scored a great slap to bring the score to two-two.
Rosselli stopped a lot of balls that would've been out of reach for a normal human being.
Hannah spun and spun to her heart’s content, before offloading to James in the middle.
Irish Tom, despite his ‘knee injury’, got a shift on a few times to run the ball all the way up to the Purples’ attacking D.
One of these runs would end with a classic hit about 15ft wide of the goal.
Another would end with Harry Lewis at centre back (wrong end of the pitch, mate), where leprechaun, Tom B, would somehow manage to school the Yellow social sec, pull the keeper wide of the goal, and tap the ball into the backboard for a three-two lead.
Douglas, having witnessed the travesty that is the M1s’ top goal scorer at centre back, swiftly got back on the pitch. However it was not meant to be as the Purples put another in the back of the net courtesy of Stephen.
As victory loomed for the Purples, the Yellows kept their cool and worked the ball up the right hand wing to set up a cracking straight strike for Joe to bring the score to four-three.
Adam made a couple of dodgy decisions that quickly got overturned as the Yellows’ front line (mainly Alice) bullied him into changing his mind.
The final whistle blew for a victory for birthday girl Hannah and her team!
Teas proved to be an abundance of pizza, numerous OJ & lemonades, and three cakes for Hannah’s birthday (one of which was definitely not made by Harry Lewis)…
Quote of the day: “LoM - James. Calm down mate. You can’t score, you can’t pass, you can’t run. Didn’t even put your body on the line.”
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday in the sun playing hockey, with great performances all round!
P.S. WHO BAKED THE CAKE, HARRY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!