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.