Spirits were high as South M1s traveled down the A505 to Hitchin and the home of Blueharts; a new team in a new league for the M1s to test their mettle against. Fifteen players had been found for the game, including New Harry, Owen and the return of Paresh.
As the game started it was apparent that we'd be under pressure from the offset. Blueharts had come down from Div 1 and in the opening ten minutes applied constant pressure into our half. But, we were holding our own and keeping the continued attacks at bay.
Throughout the match the centre back partnership of Colin and Tom stopped multiple attacks from the Harts players, including a few three-on-ones by Tom and an unbelievable last ditch tackle by Colin (a large contributing factor to him winning MoM). Supported by Bhav, Stu, Paresh and Joel rotating through the halves, the defence looked like they'd manage to hold off Harts. Joel and Paresh provided great distribution across the pitch and at points into the opposition D. Bhav and Stu were making daring runs down the wings. As always, Jason was a menacing presence at the back, clearing up any mess that the defence left for him.
The midfield of (Old) Harry, Mike and Owen, rotating in, were creating excellent link-up play between the defence and attack. Mike earned himself a few MoM votes with some masterful dribbling and constant effort in the 50/50s. The forward line of Shin, Ollie, Pearson, Jon and New Harry were making runs, creating opportunities and trying to grab the crucial goal. New Harry had a few snap shots that the Harts goalie just managed to keep out.
Owen managed to grab LoM with a green card for a late stick tackle (after the whistle had gone) and his subsequent haste in coming back on the pitch (or not…)
The first half was very even; the five pre-season games were showing their worth as the fitness levels were impressive. Harts were a quick and agile team, making multiple runs and attempting to split up our defence with clinical passes. However, South responded with as much, creating multiple opportunities to score and pressing their defence right back into the final twenty-three.
Unfortunately - a story familiar for the M1s - we weren't able to stem the tide for seventy minutes and just as we entered the last fifteen we let in a goal from open play. A swift cross across the D saw a sneaky Harts player grab the goal at the back post. Within a couple of minutes we'd conceded a second from a short corner.
In the last fifteen we attacked and attacked but couldn't break through and get that final touch for the goal.
Although a disappointing loss, the consensus was that we were playing really strong hockey and were unlucky not to convert our chances.
P.S. On the way home, Shin admitted he didn't know how to score a goal…the Cambridge North car was baffled by the statement.
Before this report, a note to the web site team. Can you arrange it so every time you hover the mouse cursor over a St Ives away fixture can you make a WARNING box appear stating: WARNING DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PUSH OUT A SHORT CORNER ON THIS PITCH. Just role it off to the side line. It is better in the long run.
The start of the league season. Everyone knows that the M2s’ traditionally do not start to play until it’s time to start thinking about the Xmas break. This year would be different, this year the team would play like it does in January and beyond from September. This year beating the top of the league three times in four weeks at the end of the season would not only be unnecessary but impossible, as it would be the M2s in that first position.
TWo minutes gone, 1-0 down. St Ives seem to have this cunning tactic of standing in front of the M2s, both on attack and defence. The South defence are under pressure from push back and, in combination with the midfield, cannot get hold of the ball, let alone string a pass or two together.
It takes at least ten minutes for the M2s to get anywhere near up to the speed of the game but St Ives still have the upper hand. South win a short. The ball gets to the top of the D…eventually; this means the old, reliable Menzies deflection does not quite come off. Note to self: push it really hard next time.
The M2s, after the Engine has had a rest and an MOT, are just about making a game of this before half time. Another short; the ball probably would have got to the top of the D. Note to self: notice how on their three short corners, St Ives have passed the ball five metres wide and then just crossed it. This would be very effective if Gibson and Anns where not so sly with their footballing skills.
Third short to us. This one has barely made it three yards. Allsopp recovers the ball but what a mess. Note to self: slap it next time.
Second half begins much better; South are now the team in charge. Free hit on the halfway line, everyone in good positions, good attacking team shape. Oh, it is their free hit. All of our players are in front of the ball and they have scored.
We keep going. Another short, another three yard bouncer. Note to team: slap it like we agreed at half time. St Ives have now resorted to playing the ball into Allsopp’s rapidly swelling feet from wherever they are on the field to break down play.
South where awarded a penalty stroke with twenty minutes left to salvage something from the game as Kenzie had his stick firmly checked from behind as he was about to shoot at goal. Deliberate foul in the D. Something you often only see a short awarded for – good decision umpire. Chalk steps up: goal. No drama here.
St Ives counter hard with a hard shot. Now the hockey goalkeeper is equipped with essentially a modern suit of armour. He has thick boots to kick the ball away. Hand protectors to bat the ball aside. Inches of leg guards that rebounds the ball at greater speed than it was struck. A helmet to head it clear if absolutely necessary. A chest protector to…etc. With all this choice, Darren went with the box as his method of choice to make this save. Effective as long as your goalkeeper does not need to stand for the next five minutes. If you have not met Darren, he is the bloke whose voice now causes all dogs in a one mile radius to spring to attention.
Not long to go. A defender is sacrificed for an extra forward. Two mins to go, one last short – should we just hit it to the side line and try and box them in? Slapped out, Anns stops cleanly and roles it in. Coops has already wound up and his stick falls in a graceful arc. Contact is made, the ball rockets towards the goal. The South supporters club hold their breath (all three of them – thank you for coming). The keeper steps and…kicks the ball to the halfway line. It’s essentially game over.
Teas - Kenzie gets man of the match for running around. Coops is looking forward to a hairy prawn curry. Walsh, in what some have said is the cleverest thing they have ever seen one of the great apes achieve, recreates one of the greatest moments of human history by turning a none-sausage roll into a sausage roll by adding a sausage to it. Chalk gets lemon due to a childhood trauma that three of the team have about being left with a cup of ice. The combined spoon and straw is there for a reason – spoon first, then straw, not the other way around – they even put it the correct way round for you to use it this way. The M3s are 1-0 up at this point. This does not improve the mood. Top of the league next week; at least from last year we know we can beat them…
And so another adventure begins, the newly promoted M3s starting their campaign alongside the M2s in 4NW for their return to the division last visited in 2013-14: that campaign started with a nine game run of defeats. Thankfully, only Joe was in that squad on the last day of the season so any return would result in minimal emotional scarring; the fact that some others players have emigrated, or got promoted to the M1s and to captain the M2s shows how much of a disaster that season must have been.
With a last minute curry booked as a bonding session for after the game, a strong squad was assembled with a different look from last season's team exaggerated due to a lack of umpires and the fact that both our centre backs were filling those roles. Even the captain decided that it was probably best to survey from the side lines in order to get a better view of his new team, so he dropped himself, or at least tried to claim that he had some kind of man-flu. Competition for places was in fact so high that Will even tried to bribe the captain by offering to collect the spare shirts on Friday night, despite the fact they were nowhere en-route.
Enough waffle, on to the game… After the shortest of warmups, which had some of the new members looking at each other asking, 'Was that really it?', we were on to the pitch to hit a ball about. That really was the whole warmup, but we wouldn't want to wear ourselves out too much now, would we! Long season ahead.
The game started scrappily with some bobbly passing, some wood chopping, and some tackles from the wrong side by both sides in the first five minutes; it was almost like we hadn't played hockey since March…oh, wait. So it came as somewhat of a surprise that on our first meaningful attack we won a short. With a lack of short corner practice, a simple push to the top followed by whatever is on was deemed to be the plan. I think we should stick with that as it worked a treat. JT injected to Nev who, with two defenders charging down on him, slipped the ball right to Dom whose smash towards the far post, deflected up waist high, had everyone jumping out the way - except JT, who for some reason was now on the P-spot and calmly volleyed the ball home. The whole team was in shock and waiting in case it was ruled out but it was allowed to stand.
A few minutes later and we were two up, a nice run by Super Noodle who tried to play a pass through to Dom; it deflected off the defender's stick to a second defender at knee height, who then top edged it back into the D and the pass had made it through. Dom still thinking he was playing cricket, cut the ball from chest high into the far post past an unmoving keeper. Two-nil - this 4NW is easy! Side note: it was amazing to hear the opposition defenders call out, "Who's marking Super Noodle?" and to try not to laugh for most of the game.
They say that two-nil is the hardest lead to defend and we started to pay heed to that, St Neots stringing together some good moves that called MSG and some of the defence into action on more than one occasion. But try as they might, we held out till half time. A short breather and some Tangfastics later and we had renewed energy. We came out early for the second half and started to bombard their goal, looking for a third. Players lying on the floor at the far post having not deflected the ball in was a repeated occurrence, as were short corners not being converted and flying just wide. It seemed only right then that we were caught kind of on the break, which when you are winning should never really happen. The ball was played in and a sprawling MSG could not keep it out and might have made it even harder for Ash on the line. We were all of a sudden under siege, with Kun Aguero and The Bib running the show in the middle despite Darren "Johnny Bairstow" Fletcher's best efforts to stop them by any means, even offering to take them out for drinks!
As time was ticking down, Dom stole the ball in midfield - why he was playing there at this point was unknown, and went on a one handed reverse stick run down the left. Time wasting in hockey is a thing, right? As he got to the corner he played a pass through the legs of the defender to Si, who ran round the other defender and won a short. With Nev having a breather on the side it meant that responsibilities fell to Si: drag flick time? Not a chance. JT had other ideas, putting the injection way off the mark. Always calm under pressure, Dom took one touch and smashed the ball into the far corner. Three-one, five minutes to go, game over. There was still time for a fourth as a clearance was deflected up off an attacker's stick and Dom played a scoop over the top to send Ash down the right. He cut in and found Joe, who put both himself and the keeper on the floor, before getting up and reverse sticking it into the open net.
Pizza was good, but unrequired due to the impending curry - which has remained to Monday morning surprisingly quiet, but I'm still waiting for a translation of what a "Buntingmaniac" performance is… Is it related to braiding leg hair?
Disclaimer: To make it more challenging for the reader this season the following players will only be referred to by first name: Ash, Alex, Dom & Matt - it will be up to you to decide which one the report applies to. We hope to recruit further James, Joes, Simons & Wills although are aware that another Nev might be unlikely.
It all looked so good beforehand; a cunning 4-3-3 plan, energetic two-v-one warm up drills, the rain stopping.
Then the game started. The returning Johnny Benedikz and his Newmarket posse matched us for energy and showed us how to make the most of possession. Although the home Cambridge South team had the bulk of the ball, it was Newmarket who grabbed two early goals, both from breakaways, through getting numbers into the D and perseverance when half-tackled. Goalkeeper, George T, had little chance with either. Other than that he was unflappable and resorted to a bit of Maradona-esque keepy-uppies for entertainment at one stage.
They got a third via a goalmouth scramble and some confusion, but Cambridge South got one back just before the break with a text book Rob Barton missile from a short corner, after a few earlier "sighters" which we had gained from previous corners. South generally did well in attack from the back but too often moves fell down due to sloppy stick-work, passes going astray or being delayed too long. Jason James and MoM Oli Anderson were always at the heart of everything but team mates were unable to capitalise on their efforts, Ian Marshman's heroic ferretting, or wingman Simon Jelley's deceptive dribbles into the danger area.
After a good talking to, the home team decided that the way forward was to mark tightly, stick to positions, get into space, and pass the ball. Who knew?
Newmarket were unable to add to their total but, in spite of many opportunities, South only netted once more with an excellent team goal…ball up the left to that man Jelley; dribbled to the by-line; pulled back to the lurking John Greaves, who calmly played it across to Rupert Espley in pole position three yards in front of goal. That's the way.
Unlike the lemon-worthy trip on the star Newmarket infant perpetrated soon after by the skipper. Moving on…
Throughout the half the home defence, marshalled by supremo Neil Sneade, with Ben Williamson notable in front of him, snuffed out every Newmarket attack. Although this enabled South to get the ball upfield frequently with controlled moves and teamplay, the final touches for a deserved equaliser, or even victory, evaded us.
South had Andi Caddy and Oli Weston playing their first games for the club, and Alex West bravely went in goal, all of whom did extremely well. Also represented were three members of the Ho family and two members of the Creed family, and a few others.
A leaner looking Mr Raikes got South off to a flyer with a neatly taken reverse hit, one that would have had Mr Barton green with envy had he been there to see it himself. One-nil. Soon after, it was two-nil, with Adrian showing us how hard and high he could hit the ball. For the first twenty minutes or so it was all South, with Alex feeling a little redundant. During this phase, South could have been four or five goals up.
As often happens at St Neots, they came back out of the blue and started winning short corners and free hits and eventually scored from a shot corner, making it two-one. As the first half drew to a close, South started reasserting control. Notably, Alex also made a couple of good saves when St Neots had their brief period of dominance
The second half was more even. St Neots started passing the ball neatly but South also played some nice stuff, with Peter's persistent right wing play, Laurie making a few forward forays and Oli hugging the left line well. In the end, it was Adrian who again showed everyone how to strike the ball and put South three-one up.
Lots of good hockey, played in good spirits. We played well as a team and a good start for the new comers.
It was the first league match of the season and we had a full fifteen ladies raring to go. St Ives – our old friends/rivals - managed to follow us up into Div 2NW. We knew it was going to be a close match, both teams thinking they could walk away with three points.
Push back to South and we were off. Pressing hard on St Ives and keeping it in their half, the goals were coming. Flix putting St Ives under huge pressure from the start with some big tackles and taking on St Ives defence. First goal to South with a slip back from the baseline by Sophie to the P-spot, where Alice put it to the back of the net, straight past the keeper. One-nil up with sixty minutes still to go, South knew the hard work had only just started.
St Ives came back with a lucky breakthrough on the half way, seeing our defenders outnumbered at the back and the score level out at one-one. With the subs rolling in time with Captain Kimbo’s specifically specific sub plan, South’s legs were fresh. St Ives ladies didn’t know who they’d be chasing next…
South scored our second goal through a classic break up the line, quick fire into the D and Sophie slipped it back behind the keeper. Half time recoup with copious Jelly Babies and Haribo of course.
The second half, South held off St Ives with an absolutely superb one-on-one save from Loopy (MoM worthy). Great support on the sideline in the second half, albeit no goals, but green cards instead from both sides. Badger took a ball to the face like a champ, nursing a lovely plump lip. But more importantly, South stayed strong, played their game and didn’t give St Ives any opportunities, securing a two-one win. Superb start to the season, ladies!
I think the score line says it all - a fantastic match showcasing some stunning hockey!
To fill in the details…most of the team turned up on time apart from our most glamorous comrade, Miss Hannah Muncey, who turned up with four minutes until play, hiding her game face beneath some dark sunglasses - cue an overwhelming Lemon win!
The man of the match was new player, Emily, who worked hard, kept attacking and played with conviction throughout!
The match started with Royston taking first pushback and showing off some slick passing, putting some early pressure on the South side. However, it didn't take long for us to work out our positions and begin to fight back. From then on, South took the game by force with the forwards and mids delivering the numerous goals into the back of the net, and the defence extinguishing any breakaway attempts.
The highlights were:
Izzy taking half of the goal share with six goals to add to her tally
Our new teammates brought home four goals between them (thank you Alice, Annie and Katie)
Eimear also snuck one in and Katie gave us a picture perfect demo of how to dribble the ball across the top of the D and slam it into the net
Lauren made a return to the pitch(side) and managed the subbing with finesse
Loopy, doing the 'treble' in goal for the 1s, 2s and 4s, took a well-earned break for most of the match
Katie avoided lemon, despite losing her purse (I believe it was found at her house)
The press worked really well today and we even tried some 'back and round', which almost worked (we can't be perfect)
Emma-Rose has become the 3D Queen! (although she did forget where Cantabs was!)
All in all, a fantastic day!
Our second friendly of the season kicked off after a quick warm up and introductions before the game. We played well in the first half and the sides were evenly matched with the help of our star goalie, Lou, who made some excellent saves. The team fought hard against Royston’s strong hitters and their attempts on goal, defending well and managing to hold them off with only one goal getting past us in the first half.
After a sugar hit at half time, we went back on with encouraging words from Laurie. Royston’s strength began to show and they managed to gain more possession from us during the second half. After a few stick tackles on both sides, the umpire gave a stern warning to say he’d hand out green cards for anymore of the same. He stuck to his word and not long after his warning the first card was handed out. Unfortunately it went to South’s Olivia, but she was quickly back on and not long after it was Royston’s turn to take a sin bin.
Royston scored a further six goals in quick succession over the second half. However, we did have some great play with lovely runs by Izzy, Rebecca and Catriona up the pitch.
MoM was awarded to Rebecca for her top attacking skills and Lou for her brilliant goalkeeping and multitude of saves; votes also came in for Izzy for her great movement and lovely runs. LoM was awarded to Olivia for the green card but has swiftly been passed to Polly for forgetting her stick; once when she was on the pitch and a second time as the team were heading home.
Big thanks also to Tom for his excellent job with Laurie’s colour-coded subbing system and top sideline support.
For the first time in its history, CSHC fielded nine hockey teams at the weekend with the first game for the L4s' team. Although this was a friendly, the one-one result against the St Neots side shows promise for the season ahead.