Long away journeys. Where a few of us gather together and drive down, discussing how we should play hockey, amongst other things. We could certainly talk a good game, focusing on our strengths and weaknesses, our reverse fixture happenings, and the key to success for a victory later that day. We discussed the permutations of other results, but ultimately we knew that our destiny was in our own hands, and a win would mean safety. No relegation. Further visits to the Lee Valley next year, via our favourite sight-seeing spot down the M11, where you can see the Shard and Canary Wharf glimmering on the horizon. But the boys we were about to play needed points to stay up too. The scene was set for a 'big game', as VC Harry Chalk would so often say.
South started strong, converting from a short corner (which sounds easy but statistically has proved exceedingly frustrating all season), after a well executed inject, stop and straight drag-flick, bulging the right side-netting just above the backboard, with Tom claiming the goal. A perfect start.
We doubled the lead in a matter of minutes, after a strong three man counter, with Tom passing from the middle to the left where Owen had found space, who subsequently drove straight in to the D and shot hard and flat, to be deflected in by Shin on the near post.
Going two-nil down in the first five minutes of a game often leads to a rout, but Berkhamsted to their credit got going after a slow start, in the form of a two goal rebuttal in quick succession. Within fifteen minutes, the game was two-two. Keeper Darren made some fine saves to keep it so, as the pressure on our defence intensified.
Just before the stroke of half-time we were awarded a short corner from another fluid counterattack, and this time Joel, from the top of the D, saw the defensive movement of the Berkhamsted defenders, who had piled on to their right post and, with the greatest composure, slapped the ball to the left, which was undefended. Joel's face showed the briefest of smirks which betrayed the rest of his cool composition. Not even a single hair from his new haircut was out of place all game.
Going in to half-time, three-two up, we assessed that we needed to tighten the centre of midfield, as they preferred to play in the middle of the park as opposed to using the wings.
This strategy proved a turning point as we secured our defensive end, with Harry Chalk, Tom, Mikey and Pearson bossing the midfield from here on in. Defensively, we were solid, systematically soaking up the pressure and winning it back before it got to our twenty-three. Joel stepped up to every ball coming his way and stopped their attack dead on numerous occasions, and they feared playing it down the wings, as Dave (who played better than average) and Bodster contained any hint of danger. Colin and Mikey's aerials were again spot on, launching many deep attacks. We looked dangerous on every break, with several chances created leading to multiple one-on-ones and unmet crosses past the far post. They eventually caved into the pressure again, leading to a highlight of the match, as follows.
Those who attend training on Tuesdays with our coach Paul will know we have been working on coming wide to receive the ball, and finding a high pass. For the fourth goal, South controlled the midfield, with captain Stu Rimmer finding a pass from deep to the right hand side just past halfway, where Shin had run into space. With a defender on his back, he turned to take on his man for pace, driving hard past the twenty-three into the D, whilst dribbling only with his dominant left hand. At this point, Chris Pearson, who had been running all day long (along with forwards Oli, Owen and Jim), made another lung-busting run across the goal from the left to the right, leaving a trailing defender on his knees. At this moment, Shin pulled off a man-of-the-match winning one-handed tomahawk across the goal to Pearson who, expecting the pass, with back to goal shimmied the oncoming ball back across the keeper for it to nestle gently into the far corner. Champagne hockey for a prosecco moment, as we cemented our status as a Division 2 team for next season.
Special mentions go to a Slick Nick for fitting in so well despite being busy delivering babies all year, and also to keeper Darren, who showed up when it mattered, keeping us level during a dicey spell. Not-so-special mentions go to Mike, who committed to the agricultural side of the game, shoulders and all, finishing the game off the pitch, as he received a yellow following his previous green. Despite this clear lemon contender, the eventual lemon went to Joel, for not playing to the whistle during the game. The opposition had clumsily tried to tackle a capering Joel in midfield, and took a tumble having kicked the ball. Joel, instead of picking up where he had left off, continued to appeal to both umpires, giving the felled player a chance to roll around a few times, get up, figure out that the foul had not been given, get the ball and start an unexpected counter-attack. Thankfully, the other defenders mucked in and snuffed out the effort.
The car journey back did not seem long, as we verbally wrapped up the match and gave ourselves plenty of auditory plaudits.
Here's to another year of Division 2 hockey. Safety.
How to play Div 6 hockey…
Collect mixed bunch of enthusiastic hockeyists aged between sixteen and sixty.
Prepare for the game via medically proven warm-up routine.
Pass ball to people in purple shirts, preferably when they dont have an opposition player in close proximity.
Force goalkeeper, hitherto frustrated by lack of saves to make, to play up front so he runs around madly, energises the team, brings along group of fans to provide noise, and scores great goal from by-line pull back to top of the D. One-nil. Nice one, George. Deserved MoM.
Deploy lightning-fast left winger on the left wing (genius tactics, we thought) to run towards goal line with ball seemingly attached to stick, and provide numerous crosses.
Position mature (or if not possible, just old) bloke somewhere in forward line to provide telling passes, and encourage him to shoot at goal when within two yards. With luck, it will go into the net sometimes. Two-nil.
Have quality, assured, skillful defenders and goalkeeper to minimise opposition goal chances and pass intelligently upfield.
Boss the midfield, and don't fall over too much.
Let the ball do the work, or just give it to Oli.
Champions by seven points. Happy days.
South 5s made an epic trip to local rivals St Ives, hoping to get one over on them as the corresponding fixture earlier in the season had resulted in a disappointing two-two draw. There was a typical warm-up, followed by some set piece practice carried out under the watchful eye of Coach Caddy whilst the team waited for our expert goalkeeper to turn up. Shahzad kept true to form by choosing to do a full tour of South Cambridgeshire in his souped-up Peugeot rather than turn up early at the pitch to pad up: some excuse about road closures and County Council jobsworths was offered (but not accepted); memories of Shahzad’s dodgy driving down one way systems in Ely are still fresh!
After a quick team huddle with some wise words from JG and encouragement from captain of the day, Seb Dias, Andi C made the fatal error of stupidly predicting an eleven-nil thrashing for South if we didn’t start right. This highly accurate prediction subsequently earned him the Lemon of the Match vote, probably revenge on him for being super cunning and avoiding the 5s' captaincy three times!
The match itself was a blur. South were slow to start. St Ives instead capitalised on the ten-man purple outfit by playing some fast one and two-touch hockey which left the South defence collectively searching for the oxygen masks after about five minutes! Some twenty minutes in, and five goals down, Ben Thompson arrived; looking eager to get in on the action after being summoned for goalkeeper duty for a team that had already secured promotion (not that I am at all bitter about this!) His silky skills and intelligent running up front were a much-needed outlet and resulted in a phase of South dominance. This did, however, coincide with St Ives introduction of their version of Road Runner, who proceeded to single handedly destroy Andi C’s legs, Garth Well’s lungs, and leave Assassin Steed in a completely different time zone altogether with his sprint-athon, which continued until the end of the match!
After a short interlude, and more encouragement from captain Dias and his trusty sidekick John "JG" Gourd, South came out of the blocks hard in the second half. A short period of dominance ensued with a couple of penalty corners awarded South’s way, which were well worked but unfortunately did not result in a much-needed goal. This provoked St Ives into action and they subsequently scored another five goals, despite South’s much improved display.
JG winning the MoM award for generally being general-like in the middle of the park.
JG performing a beautiful block tackle in South’s D, not only deflecting the ball away from danger but flipping the ball carrier into the air, whereupon he performed an incredible landing, WWE-style.
Garth Vader attempting his Jedi mind tricks on both umpires regularly throughout the game.
A St Ives player who demonstrated such commitment that, not only was he involved in a sailing race in the morning, but somehow managed to play a game of hockey as well. All on the same day (take note, Simon K)!
Some quality saves from Shahzad, who was so caught up in the moment that he forgot that he had left his glasses…on his head!
And some brilliant ball chasing from the legend himself, Andy Thomas: "I've got it!" [ball runs off pitch] "…I've not got it."
It’s been a brilliant season guys, let’s make the next one even better. Big, big thank you to everyone involved, not just the players but captains, secretaries and umpires!
It had been a while since the L1s got to play hockey on a Saturday but we were buzzing for our penultimate game of the season, playing CoP at home. Last time we played Peterborough, we left with a one-nil loss, which was gutting, so we were determined to get a better result this time around! The aim of the game was to enjoy it and play good hockey, which we certainly did.
South supporters were out in force!
Manager Kim was bossing it on the sidelines.
Purple to purple passing was on point.
We had good attempts on goal.
We conceded a few penalty corners but managed to save them each time!
We had a few PCs ourselves but unfortunately no goals this week.
Robs Muzza plays fantastically well when she has an audience. Putting in a tremendous shift, earning herself MoM.
Robs Mc hit poor George in the knee (#sorrynotsorry. I’m joking, I’m very, very sorry…first Kim, now George: who wants to be next?) Earning twelve votes out of fourteen for lemon.
Blythe’s hockey brain has turned to mush and can’t remember standard hockey terms.
Final result nil-nil; even though we drew, it felt like a win. Well done, girls.
It has been a really fun and great season for the L2s. In the run up to today, we had won fifteen league games and lost only two. This left us leading the division but, with two teams just three points behind, we needed to win or draw this final game to secure promotion. The pressure on this game only ramped up as the fixture was postponed not once but twice due to the snow.
Finally, the day came. Without being one for suspense (and you all know the final score anyway), we lost. But we lost with true style and certainly left everything we had on that pitch! A big thank you to Coach Dave, who turned what could have been a truly devastating result into an amazing game.
In the words of Dan, Lucy’s boyfriend, who was tasked with keeping the missing squad members updated, this is what happened:
2 mins played. We’re down 1-0.
Sorry to say it’s 2 now.
Not sure of the exact term, but an opposition player has been sent off.
Couldn’t see the card properly, but wasn’t yellow.
Had about 4 penalty corners in a row and couldn’t convert 1.
We’re putting the pressure on.
Just need to take these chances. It’s end to end at the minute. We’ve had much more of the possession this half - probably 70/30.
3-0 down now.
The other team missed an open goal.
It’s half time.
Second half kicking off.
We had it cleared off their line.
We’ve had over 10 short corners now.
We’ve just had a goal called off.
3-0 still. Another shot went in, but too far out.
10 mins to get 2.
Crowd went crazy here.
We’ve taken our keeper off for another player.
Five minutes to go.
Just need a draw.
Had a penalty corner.
Another short corner, another short corner.
Maybe 20 taken.
I can’t take it.
It’s emotional here.
Wish I could have said we’d got 1 more.
So many short corners.
We got better as it went on.
Worked so hard.
Thanks, Dan! Work hard we did. A fantastic team performance from every single player - just how it has been all season. We might not have won the division, but we played like true champions!
The L3s arrived for an early morning start in Bury St Edmands, with a 10am pushback. We started with a strong defence, but their determination deprived us of a goal for the first few minutes. But after passing the ball up the pitch it was smacked into the goal by Tuffers. We set up, keen to score again, but the defensive strategies from Bury meant that Tuffers only succeeded in scoring one more goal in the first half, despite winning several short corners in a row.
As we were finishing our half-time sweets, the adrenaline began to kick in just in time for the second half. While our attackers began to break up the swarming orange shirts, we protected the ball to bring it all the way up the pitch and, with a few passes and speedy runs from Izzy, another goal was scored. Despite many great tackles from Meg and Nicole, our goalkeeper, Louise, made a very impressive save when left with lots of Bury players in the D. However, after great attempts at a defensive short corner we conceded a well-deserved goal by Bury. Lou did a great job at keeping the ball on the pitch and hassling their defenders in the D. We managed multiple switches across the back, successfully executed by Laurie to take the ball into space for Lauren C and Hayley to carry it through midfield for goals to be scored by Polly, Tuffers and Lauren B. Finally, as the match was coming to an end and the rain was becoming more persistent, Olivea snuck one last goal past their excellent keeper.
We had MoM votes spread over almost half of the team. With votes for Tuffers and Olivea for their excellent goal scoring, Hayley and Laurie for their persistence and Meg for her exceptional defending and clearances. But Izzy deservedly won MoM for her runs into the D and skills around players. LoM on the other hand was won by two people, Laurie and Tuffers. Tuffers for her eventful journey to the match, endangering squirrels, pheasants and young children. And Laurie for hitting the ball off the ground into Aoife’s hip. There were also votes for Lou for her slide in the D for a failed attempt on goal, and the pitch got two votes for being incredibly slow and having invisible lines.