The fixture began with both teams respectfully remembering the fallen and wounded from conflicts over the past one hundred years with a two minute silence.
As the home team took the pushback the heavens opened, but unperturbed (unlike our M4 colleagues) both teams got stuck in to some skilful hockey. The rain intensified and there was a flash of lightning and mighty crack of thunder that echoed around the nearby buildings. Not wishing to see thirty players 'fried' in the 100 x 50m rain-soaked, lightning conductor that the Long Road astro had become, the umpires rightly ushered everyone to the safety of the changing rooms.
Umpire and resident South meteorologist, Neil S, continued to monitor the storm's progress via the Dark Sky app from the comfort of the umpires' changing room until it was deemed safe to continue.
The match got underway again in much improved conditions with the home team taking the initiative. Tom S picked up a ball on the left wing and powered towards a gap in the Kettering defence, before slotting the ball neatly past the keeper. Great start! The South defence and MoM, George T, held strong through a series of short corners awarded to the opposition, whilst midfield and defence continued to push hard for a second goal. Alas it was the visitors who equalised shortly before half-time.
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, with both teams frequently breaking forward from midfield whilst defending robustly. But it was the away team that had a slight edge when it came to finishing and South soon found themselves two goals down. Spirits un-dampened (or at least only by recurring showers) South continued to press forward and it wasn't long before Rob B found himself in his favourite position, centre of D with the ball nicely poised to be 'reverse-sticked' into the back of the net. With less than five minutes to play South clearly had the momentum to grab a well-deserved draw and continued to press forward, even after 'big-hitter' John G limped off following a point-blank hit to the ankle. Unfortunately time ran out before the motivation and energy, leaving it three-two to the visitors.
MoM was George T for some spectacular work in goal that without a doubt kept us in the game. Strangely there were more LoM votes for his temperamental car than for Shahzad himself, for not making it further than the hard shoulder of the M11, but overwhelming winners were the M4s for not wanting to mess up their hair by playing in the rain!
Perhaps not the victory we had hoped for against a team much improved since last season, but definitely one of our most dogged and determined performances so far this season, so plenty to be positive about! CoP, here we come!