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.