Saturday the 9th of September was a very special day for the club as we finally said goodbye to one of the most prolific goal scorers in recent club history. In fact, according to a certain website called Google, this player has scored 118 goals in 136 appearances for South, since his debut way back in 2008. With emails being sent across the entire South clubverse, we were all duly notified to be at the Tram Depot for 7.30 to see the chap off. But beforehand, we had a game of hockey.
A twelve-strong South side travelled to Bishop's Stortford to play in the penultimate friendly warm-up match of the season. With only the one substitute, we knew we were in for a shift. The home side (who are preparing to play in the league above) were a very composed team, managing to transition seamlessly from defence to attack through long channel balls, exposing an apparent weakness in defending wide due to our attack-heavy formation. However, once our defence had the chance to stand the ball carriers up, the attack was quashed in a reliable fashion and the only real danger, you could sense, would be from set pieces.
Now the home side's set pieces deserve a special mention as they had a very slick routine, with enough variation, without being overly complicated. Having won four short corners all game, they converted three with tidy drag flicks left and right of the goal. This was the area which stood out as the biggest difference between our two sides on the day.
Attacking-wise for the South outfit, we had our fair share of possession and we played impressive hockey at times. With a stand out performance from "Spikey" Mike in midfield, we pushed and pulled their defence with good leads, posting up, and movement off the ball creating space for others in anticipation. Having said this, we were clearly still lacking the cutting edge in the ever-elusive art of goal scoring.
There was a passage of play where Shin Kim was taken out by the goalkeeper, whilst offloading to Harry Chalk, who struck the ball goalbound, only to be stopped by the defender's foot on the line. We were rightfully awarded a penalty flick.
Up stood Shin to try to convert all of the pressure we had been exerting on the home side, but his mind games failed him and the keeper ended up making a relatively simple save. He shan't be taking any more for a while!
We were also rewarded with two short corners of our own but, yet again, our set pieces were below par and clearly needed polishing before the start of the season.
Having been down three-nil at half time, we played a lungbusting second half, conceding only the one goal whilst spurning a fair few chances of our own.
Man of the match was Mike Karran for his defiant ball carrying and distribution and maniacal defensive chasing.
Lemon was Shin Kim, for failing to convert his penalty flick.
After the game, most of the team gathered at the Tram Depot and said farewell to Graham McCulloch. There was a farewell card, a short speech, many pleasantries, some champagne, an after party at Revolutions for the wilder ones… we said goodbye to not only a talented sportsman but also a good friend. So an era ends.