Much like Maddie Hinch’s preparation for the 2016 Olympus Games, no sport team has ever achieved greatness without doing their homework. In our case, dissecting the playing style of mid-to-lower table Div 2N powerhouse Dereham 2s and, in Maddie’s case, the Dutch national side and her little red book. So Friday night saw a barrage of strategic hockey chat on how to combat the Norfolk town’s unusual and direct formation. After much discussion, we settled on putting more balls in their goal than they do in ours and, with that, went to bed.
This turned out to be a sensible strategy. The first half of the game saw Dereham struggle to cope with the intensity of play that has come to characterise South’s games of late. With extra substitutes on South’s side, keeping that pressure on their back line was manageable early on, but it wasn’t until Tommy K scored from a set piece penalty corner that the deadlock was broken. Dereham rallied and (as discussed) sent a number of balls over the top in an attempt to break up the close press. Doug, Joel and Mariano all comfortably stepped off their man to soak up the incoming bombardment. Hinch would be proud.
As we attacked again, play from Bailey and Chalk ended with Pearson breaking free at the top of the D. He fired off a shot but it never quite did more than roll towards the goal. The keeper was off his line, but thankfully Hockley was on the back post to ensure the ball cross the line unhindered. Two-nil.
As the first half came to a close, South had equalled their goal tally from their first encounter with Dereham with additional goals from Chalky, Lewis and a second from Tommy K, counting five in total.
In the second half, South took the foot off the gas a bit. Space opened up in the midfield, giving Dereham a glimmer of hope going forward, their midfield players beginning to find the kind of form that had punished South with three goals in the last fixture. This time round though, Fortress Long Road held firm and South absorbed the attacks with minimal stress. Dereham battled on and looked threatening for brief spells, but another penalty corner goal, this time from resident Kiwi Paresh, sealed the deal and saw South take the victory at six-nil.
It’s worth noting that history is always written by the victors and, in this case, of the six goals scored that day one will always stand out from the rest for being of the quality that even Maddie Hinch wouldn’t have predicted possible in her little red book.