Bit of a spectacle.
South’s M4s turned up to Long Road to face Horncastle, ready to go ahead of a crucial match that could help decide the fate of both teams. Horncastle were four points and one league place behind South, but most importantly, they were the wrong side of the relegation line, something we were very keen to keep that way. A win here was essential.
We formed up in a slightly unusual 4-3-3 with some interesting, but slightly perplexing, tactics and roles. Jan finally decided to let Pete off the leash that he had been gnawing at for some time now and the plan was to blitz Horncastle with speed and width since they had only turned up with eleven and we had some super subs.
The game got underway in a very atypical M4s style (basically we didn’t spend the first ten minutes remembering that we were actually on a hockey pitch and were expected to do something) with some great flowing hockey from Pete, Oli Scott, and Oli Weston linking together nicely along the right wing. It turns out Jan does know a thing or two about hockey and his tactics were working a charm, and soon enough we fought our way into their D and took the lead with an absolute screamer from Dan Loy. This one has sealed my vote for goal of the year, hands down. It was a reverse stick wonder strike from almost the edge of the D that managed, somehow, to make it just over the line. I think Horncastle’s goalie must have blinked at least seven or eight times to miss that one. In all seriousness, Dan did well to get the strike off in a very crowded D and our great start to the match was rewarded with the goal.
Horncastle tried their best to come back at us; Jan, JJ, and Simon K excellently marshalling the attacks to thwart them as best we could; but we would have potentially been behind had it not been for Mike between the sticks stringing together a series of wonder saves. All in all we made it to half time with the score still at one-nil despite Paul and Rob giving the goal a good peppering, and we were feeling good.
Jan’s team talk was, as always, inspiring and the Haribo gifted by super-supporter Andi Caddy went down a treat; cheers, dude! We knew what we needed to do to win and were ready to go.
The second half started in the same fashion that the first had ended, with lots of free-flowing hockey and both sides evenly matched. Seb, Dan, Oli (S), and John all did superbly and had their work cut out for them in the middle to keep up with the pace of the game. Simon Jelley was running himself ragged out on the left wing, trying everything to bring the ball round the back of them and create some magic, but we couldn’t quite pull it all together and convert the play to goals.
We could sense that Horncastle were tiring; the few minutes of respite they had had at half time weren’t quite enough and we had every chance to break through, get another goal and hopefully some breathing room with it. Attempting one such break I took a very quick free hit that ended up at the feet of the opposition who hadn’t quite gotten five. I decided to forcibly move him…I shoved him out the way and quite rightly earned myself a yellow card, some time on the naughty step and Lemon of the match.
Horncastle took full advantage of the short-handed M4s and pressed us hard, and yet again Mike came to the rescue stopping everything that they could throw his way. Unfortunately, this came to an end with a spectacular drag flick from a penalty corner that creeped into the top corner of the goal, chipping some paint off the underside of the bar on its way in. They had tied the match. In the remainder of the half both teams gave their all to get that winning goal but the match ended all square: a disappointing result.