Cambridge South Mens 1st XI needed a strong win over bottom of the league West Herts 3 to find some breathing space in a congested Div 2S mid-table. We started brightly with Paresh scoring an early straight strike from a penalty corner. New Tom and Chalky combined well in the midfield to supply Pearson with a chance at the top of the D and he promptly delivered a drag, which was deflected by a West Herts player in their goal. TWo-nil. Williams began to come into his own towards the end of the first half with solid passing movement into the West Herts half. We kept the intensity high as the clock ran down to half-time and fought off a couple of aerial bombardments to their high, fast forwards; testing the combined fitness of Mario and Luigi (a.k.a. Mariano and Trollman) – luckily Lemon of the Match, Average Aston, was there to mop up the pieces and save the day.
The second half saw a tense start. Xabi, from the sidelines, leaned over to Mens 2nds’ captain and all-time club hero, Simon ‘the Barrel’ Cooper, and said, ‘We really need a third goal to put this to bed.’ As is often the way with Xabi’s prophetic mutterings, skipper Stu promptly attacked their right flank, fed the ball to Pearson who ended up one-on-one with the keeper and in the ensuing scramble chanced a nice reverse flick under the outstretched arm of the flailing goalie. Almost immediately we scored a fourth, with Harrison the midfield garrison clearing a ball forward to Chalk via Where’s Wally?™, who from a tight angle slipped in past the keeper’s right foot. Four-nil and game felt put to bed. Between then and the end, Karran also scored and Aston got his hand smashed in, earning him some late Lemon votes and ultimately the prize.
Special mention to coach Paul for keeping us focused even in the cold and to New Tom, who showed a character-defining amount of humility as the evening of rugby unfolded.
I come to write this some one hundred hours after the match itself. Given that I couldn't really remember what happened on Sunday evening when I first fired up the laptop, what follows is, by necessity, a touch meandering.
Ahhh…Tom Anns. A man that contains as much hockey player as an Aldi fishcake contains fish. Truly, he must be 95% potato.
Still. Like many, he benefited from the way that, having swept in from Rutland in the early 2010s, I revolutionised Cambridge South's M2s. The first problem was the betting ring, which I solved by promoting Colin Trollman to the 1s. Clearly though, my main issue was going to be the diet of the players. A full English breakfast to start the day, washed down with two John Smith's and a cig, was never going to cut it. 'Modern Life is Rubbish!' I heard Chris Walsh cry, as Jack Chalk quietly seethed in the corner, filled with simultaneous envy and respect for the way in which I could appear both youthfully urbane and gnomic-ly wise.
My approach was relentless:
Cones, cones and endless cones.
Perhaps a spot of limbering up?
Why not try a tomato?
The similarities with Arsene Wenger's career are not lost on me, I assure you.
The results were instantaneous, as we stormed to 6th place in EML Division 4(NW) at the end of the 2014/15 season in a blaze of free-flowing attacking hockey, defensive clangers and houmous.
The glory years followed, as we went on to secure top-four finishes in 2015/16 (4th) and 2016/17 (4th). Champions League hockey would have been ours, if only you could qualify for Europe by finishing in the top four of EML Division 4(NW).
Alas, an inevitable entropy has now struck. Arsene and I have been overtaken by hungry rivals, spunky with youth and zinging with fresh tactical ideas, whilst we struggle increasingly with our zip-up coats and look ever more like an owl. As pundits clamour for our removal, we hunker down into our own self-referential bunker. Why does he need Sol Campbell when he has Rob Holding? Why do I need Robert Pires when I have NBM? Meanwhile, former great hopes which had been eventually written off for good seem to flourish under new management (see Oxlade-Chamberlain under Klopp and Kern under…Kern).
Against this backdrop, Alford arrived in Cambridge.
Those in the cushioned seats at Long Road have grown accustomed to us starting in soporific fashion, but here we actually sprang from the blocks. No-one was more surprised than Max Holgate when he slipped home the opening goal.
The away side's blind turn-whacks were proving uncomfortably effective though and no-one was less surprised than absolutely everybody that has ever watched the M2s when the equaliser went it.
The second half followed precisely the same pattern, with the optimism of Chalk's rusty-bladed finish being almost immediately cancelled out in remarkably well-taken fashion.
As therein lies the M2s' season in a nutshell. Grimacing on, but all the while nursing the most awful hernia. Time and tide wait for no man.
As we made the long trek up to Wisbech, the pre-match predictions betrayed the scale of the challenge facing us. I didn’t catch the home fixture due to injury, but eyewitnesses said that though we had battled hard, in the end we were outgunned 4-1 by a strong side who were now flying high at the top of the league.
An away trip, then, was going to be tough. A comprehensive survey conducted in the car saw nobody bold enough to predict a win or even a draw for the M3s, though MSG did proclaim that we would concede a mere two goals.
Which would have been a spot on guess, had he been limiting himself to the first five minutes of the game. The omens had augured poorly when skipper Matt noted we hadn’t warmed up with our usual intensity, and so it proved when Wisbech scored after about fifteen seconds.
I didn’t catch the goal due to nipping off for a tactical urinal visit, but eyewitnesses said that Ash A, after a season of lovely Steven Gerrard-esque distribution at the back, suffered an agonising Steven Gerrard-esque slip-up at the back. The Wisbech striker took full advantage to give his team the lead.
Not the best of starts. Worse still, it was in front of a crowd, as Josh O had brought his better half along to support us. This was presumably as punishment for something, and we couldn’t really blame her when she got out her phone and started chatting to the people she knows who don’t inflict hockey on her.
Things got even worse for everyone a few minutes later. Our defence was outpaced by a pair of Wisbech forwards, with one squaring to the other for a simple second goal.
Two-nil down with sixty-five minutes still on the clock. It was looking grim, with the only ray of light coming from watching Alex P’s graceful salmon leap to try and intercept an aerial. But just as with last week’s friendly, when we sort-of-overcame a four-nil deficit to salvage a creditable five-three defeat, the M3s showed a talent for defying sluggish starts to drag ourselves back into the game.
The comeback was triggered by a Joe aerial, which the Wisbech keeper booted away. Unfortunately for him, I had pelted up from the halfway line and intercepted the clearance, driving into the D and playing it across to where Josh O was waiting. He made no mistake with the finish.
With a foothold in the match, and buoyed by MSG’s shout of, “We’ve got them on the rocks!” we kept pushing. I didn’t catch the equaliser due to being back in my own half, but eyewitnesses said that it was Josh O again, smashing in a shot that one of the Wisbech defenders bravely chested away, but only after it had already crossed the line.
Two-two at half time, and it was hard to tell which team was more surprised.
In the second half, we continued where we left off. Alex B and John played some nice passes to create openings, while Ash D and Nev both worked hard up top to provide an ever-present threat with their mazy dribbles. Thanks to these collective efforts, we completed the remarkable turnaround with a short corner – Alex B saw his effort saved, only for Joe to convert the rebound.
Wisbech did not take kindly to falling behind at home, and ratcheted up the pressure. Chris M showed admirable versatility playing at both full back positions as well as defensive mid, as we rotated frequently to keep ourselves fresh for the onslaught. Josh O, keen to impress our crowd on the touchline, found the energy to track back time and time again.
Our defence was determined not to be judged just on the opening five minutes, with Jan making a series of crucial blocks and Ash A cleverly skewing an aerial in order to intimidate the watching Wisbech supporters. Ahead of them, Matt K marshalled the efforts to keep the midfield solid, while the fullbacks Alex both enjoyed/endured repeated sprint races against an array of rapid Wisbech wingers.
For a glorious twenty minutes, it seemed like we might hold on for a win. But Wisbech won a series of short corners and one of their routines finally paid dividends, with their player shooting under my too-slow stick to find the corner and pull level.
Now we were in danger of losing the points altogether, as our opponents selfishly weren’t happy to settle for a draw. MSG made a series of big saves, with the highlight coming as he threw himself to the floor to block the first effort, before springing into the air (inspired perhaps by Alex P?) to parry away the follow-up chip that seemed destined for the net.
Realising we had to alleviate the pressure, Joe executed some textbook ‘Sneading’, dribbling around in a corner of our own half, unperturbed by the bemused Wisbech attackers surrounding him. Clearly impressed, Matt promptly did something similar in the opposite corner. Both displays gave us a collective breather and coronary.
Finally, the whistle went, and we had secured a point away to the league leaders – only the fourth time they’ve dropped points all season, according to our statisticians. It was a testament to our performance that there was some disappointment that we’d been unable to secure the win. We carried this newfound assertiveness into the match teas, with Ash D striding over to the kitchen and demanding that he be given some of the cake on the counter in addition to the spag bol that had already been dished out. Leave it on the pitch, Ash.
Also dished out were the MotM and LotM awards – the strong team performance was reflected by a wide range of nominees, with Matt K winning thanks to his exemplary performance in the middle of the park, and Josh O ‘winning’ for his misguided efforts at a romantic break. I didn’t catch the aftermath, but eyewitnesses say he slept on the couch that night.
South M4s secured the championship and promotion from Div 6NW(S) with a crisp, cool, sharp performance, similar to the prevailing weather, against a battling St Ives team. Everyone contributed to the five-one win on the day…
GKGT - Successfully transporting MoM, Oli A, to the game. No mean feat as Oli was in the process of waking up and doing his bathroom preparations at the agreed pick-up time. George T also displayed his specialist belly flop approach in a "one-on-seven" situation to snuff out a rare St Ives threat.
Ben W - Tenacious in defence and attack. Turbo-charged.
Rock Radford - Last line of defence. No problem. Nifty sidestep. All part of the service.
JJ - Was it that especially pungent aerosol spray? Was it his constant verbal geeing-up? Was it his Monckosaurus-like thunderbolt passes upfield? Whatever; the only way the opposition would get the ball from him was when he generously passed it, laser-like, directly to them. Across our twenty-three. After instructing teammates to back off so he could have the space to execute that pass. Only once, but that and the aforementioned spray were deemed Lemon-worthy.
Ed "Rolls Royce" Bligh - Making another rare appearance to scurry around effectively. That's him popping up at the back in the pic. And on the pitch. His underpants display upon his "delayed" arrival probably put the opposition off too. All part of the masterplan.
Paul S - Representing the over 60s, and using his "maturity" as an excuse for not retreating five metres at free hits. Umpires are getting wise to this. Great goal though, as he stole up silently to the far post to nudge in our fourth.
Jimmy Lightning - Blistering pace on the left. If only the pitch was a foot longer. His crosses deserved more. Thanks for bringing our loyal group of supporter too, Jimmy.
Jelley - In spite of an injured knee he kept going in the cause. Almost got hit on the head too. Commitment, skill; we like.
Doc Marshman - Medical master of the pre-match warm up. Unobtrusively effective.
Oli A - Dazzling skills and pace. Constant threat. Brilliant solo goal. Deserved MoM, which he celebrated with a slush puppy and beer. Youth of today, eh?
Robby B - Hat-trick hero. One blast from a short corner, one via a CONVENTIONAL (i.e. not reverse stick) thump, and one from close range after one of many great moves to open up the bemused home defence. That and pre-match tactical planning, leadership, and encouragement to all. What does this man have to do to be MoM> Looks like Goal King is a cert though.
Skipper Greaves - Some neat passes, especially for Rob B's first goal; standing in front of the St Ives goalkeeper to enable Paul S to sneak round; a bang on the knee; some noisy stick tackles. Another day at the office.
St Ives were magnanimous in defeat, clapping us off at the end, and the teas were up to their usual high standard. Happy days.
We arrived at Stephen Perse to find the Year 6 IAPS netball tournament in full swing. "Come on, Perse", "Let's go, Kim(bolton)"… Ahhh, the sweet sounds of public schools parents. I thought to myself, 'Could we win it? We have the age (/ experience) and physicality; we are hockey players after all.' I had some positional thoughts: who would play GS - ahh, Alison of course - and centre, I hear you say…? Well…obviously, I would put myself in at Centre, naturally selfish as I am… Alas, I concluded that height was not on our side (even when playing against eleven year olds) and the risk of losing was too high - best stick to hockey.
We met in the boys' changing rooms, despite being the away team (maybe we are too kind at Fotress Long Road?!) We nearly got locked in when the Head of PE at Stephen Perse shouted, "Anyone in here? I'm locking up."
On to the hockey: it was a glorious day - sun was shining- we were positive and up for it. The first half was great; we pressed well, we played well. We passed to each other, we defended in pairs and we had almost as many opportunities as City. Both teams defended well and as a result we were nil-nil going in at half time. George Hurford (MOM) put in countless tackles while Hannah and Emily were channeling their players onto George's stick. Glorious. The subbing was seamless, if I do say myself, as I adopted a sideline manager role this Saturday. For anyone who's interested in how I did it - if a player looked tired, I took them off.
Second half started well and it looked as if we could nab a goal, with some one-on-ones with the keeper and Alice getting a shot off, as well as Maddy piling over the keeper. Sadly a lapse in concentration for five minutes allowed City to score twice - one with a reverse volley and the other a well-constructed goal. B-Murph (Blythe, to those not avid followers of the L1s) took a hit to the ankle, or did she just trip over herself? Anyway, she went down as if she had been shot… (LOM) and the rest of the match was a bit of a blur. We tired quicker than City and it showed in the final minutes.
Teas consisted of four; Alice H, George, Alice W and Emily, but a wonderful four at that - who enjoyed something that, at a guess, was lasagna. NB I am not suggesting Wilberforce Road teas were unidentifiable, I just don't know what they were.
On a freezing Saturday afternoon, South L2s crammed into the changing rooms at Wilberforce Road to prepare to take on City 5s. We knew what we needed to do; get the win today and be within touching distance of the league title. With a team heavy with midfielders and an additional Katie B, skipper Louisa worked hard to devise a plan for victory!
Tactically starting off with the setting sun on our backs, we were keen to gain an early advantage. Unfortunately it was City who grabbed the lead. Taking advantage of some subbing confusion, City overloaded and drove into the D, coolly slotting the ball past keeper, Lydia.
Southern heads didn't drop though and we worked hard to create chances before Kendra grabbed the equaliser with a hard hit shot: game on! South continued to pile on the pressure; Katie F worked hard picking up the ball on the wings and Jess intercepted and distributed balls in the centre, before Katie G was on hand to put South in front.
City tried hard to hit back and piled on the pressure at the end of the half, bringing some fantastic and resolute defending from Lucy, Harriet, Dani and Annie, successfully defending at least five back-to-back short corners - half time came as some relief.
The half time team talk refueled and refocused us (despite Louisa losing the Haribo…that were in her pocket) and we set up facing the beautiful red sky, ready and raring to go. After solid defending in the first half, Annie joined the forward line and a well-worked team move found her perfectly placed to sweep in goal number three.
The South defensive line of Harriet, Ellie and Lucy continued to soak up City pressure, including defending more shorts with help from Louisa and Dani. At the other end, Izzy made a nuisance of herself, creating more chances, before Eimear picked up the ball in the D, deftly flicking it past the keeper for a certain goal - cleared off the line by a defender!
South finished the scoring with a well-worked goal from Katherine and the final whistle blew on a hard earned victory. MOM votes were spread between Katie F, Katie G, Harriet, Jess and Annie but a worthy winner was Lucy for fantastic defending and tenacity. LOM votes went to Annie for playing with a tiny stick, Louisa for losing the sweets but won by Katie B for playing a great game despite saying she wasn't available!
Well done to everyone who played and worked so hard. We showed the grit and determination that have made us a force to be reckoned with this season. Attention is now turned to next week's match against Sudbury - only the league title to play for, let’s make it ours!
Now this is a story all about how
The 3s got flipped turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute, just bear with me
I'll tell you how we became the sparkly new queens of the league
In Cambs South Hockey Club, born and raised
On the astro is where we spent most of our days
Hitting' out, flickin’, and passin’ all cool
And shootin’ all the goals, outside Long Road School
When the Newmarket team, who desperate to,
Annihalate our record and not let goals through
At just three-one up, us and Loopy got scared
She said, “You’re lethargic and better than this, now go be prepared.”
We pulled up our game and got our sticks down
And yelled to each other, “South girls, we can do this!”
Seven-one was the score, and we reveled with glee
Then wore our crowns proud, as new queens of the league
So…WE DID IT!!!!! We are the official champions of Division 5NW(S)! What a journey it’s been, and to say we’re all completely chuffed is an understatement. Roll on next season!
The match prep started with a bit of confusion from Laurie’s crazy new attempt at subbing; there were diagrams, a lot of explanations and even more blank faces. The system was that quirky it definitely warranted a few lemon votes. Nonetheless, anxious to earn the glory of our looming championship, we muddled on through and hit the ground in a pretty discombobulated fashion, to say the least.
Yet, just three minutes in, Lauren scores a beauty! Our spirits were lifted but Newmarket were putting up a fight. They were not prepared to suffer another eight-nil defeat, which they had endured the week prior. Tuffers gets a goal a few minutes later and Lauren slips in another, all in the first twenty minutes.
However, Newmarket then broke through and with our defence collapsed, Newmarket smashed a goal in to narrow the margin; us defenders felt about as useful as Donald Trump’s tiny hands trying to open a pickle jar.
Half time struck and it’s safe to say that Loopy gave us the kick up the back-side we all needed. We were 3-1 up but we knew we could do better. So after some choice words, scrumdiddlyumptious Tangfastics, and a rejig of our attitude, we came back as the femme fatales we’ve grown to become, ready to show Newmarket what we were truly made of. Ash even decided to go rogue and wear her subbing bib around her neck to shake things up, yet the umpires didn’t seem to agree… Still, it made Ash a very worthy Lemon winner.
We were back in the game. There was beautiful passing around the back (initiated by Meg) and everyone had stepped up to create some incredible spaces and lines. Hayley, Aoife and Tuffers were working in tandem to perform some balletic hockey; it was almost perfectly choreographed as they danced around the opposition. However, Olivia was our stand out performer. Her tireless effort up the wings and tenacious tackling raised the game. Like a hawking eagle ready to snipe her prey, she set up the goals for those in the D ready to strike. She quite rightly was our Man of the Match and general super-hero; well done, you legend!
Just two minutes in, Lauren scores the hat-trick and enforces our rediscovered confidence in ourselves. Our defence definitely stepped up its game and refuted Newmarket’s continued efforts to score. They were no match for our obstinance and resolve. Next, Emily gets her own slice of goal-pie (you’ll need to forgive me for the lack of details as again, sitting in centre-back and being blinded by the winter sun, my super-human eyesight was having a day off). I can remember however that the final two goals were from our wonderful Tuffers, first from a short corner then finally going in for the strike in the final minute. The team erupted in celebrations and the final score was brought up to a brilliant seven-one.
The whistle blew and victory was ours. The votes for MOM reflected the hard work across the team and only encouraged our celebrations. Commencing at Cantabs and carrying on to Ani’s, we learned exactly who would win between a hamster and a guinea pig, that whales don’t like it rough, and that that yes, you do need to store your kitchen roll under geckos.
After some important Annual Dinner boat race practice, it was on to All Bar One for more events I can’t recall, though I’m sure they were phenomenal. Dani, who had been relentlessly cheering from the sidelines and managing the subbing with such proficiency, still scored in the D where she found her mojo instead in the magical Lola Lo’s. Who doesn’t love a cheeky 3am romance?
All in all, it was a marvelous occasion and I think all of our sore heads this morning echo our steam-rolling efforts for this season. Now to carry on our undefeated record for the final matches!