M6 in Three Goal Away Win
By Steve Todd
Men's 6s 3 - 0 EUHC Gamblers London M3
Saturday 23rd November. Grey. Too early. The prospect of a visit to one of the least-popular hockey facilities in the UK at Crystal Palace. Unbridled joy…
Auspicious start number one…a lengthy queue for a train ticket, and cue a small family of three having an unhurried chinwag with the only person selling tickets at the train station about the advantages/disadvantages of a Group Save for two adults and a child.
Auspicious start number two…a ‘learned’ goalkeeper not capable of getting himself and his bag through a turnstile at Crystal Palace railway station.
Auspicious start number three…with 20 minutes before pushback, half a team seemingly ready for a game having got an early train, another portion trying to make their way through the maze that is Crystal Palace Sports Centre to the hockey pitch, and the rest nowhere to be seen.
Auspicious start number four…a pretty lackadaisical warm-up, no real urgency, and a team that looked like they’d rather be shopping in Kingston on a Saturday afternoon than playing hockey.
Using the old cliché of ‘a game of two halves’:
And so the start of the game…to no great surprise, we were under the cosh from the opposition from minute one. A team who were intent on getting an early advantage at one end (the opposition), and their opponents who were still trying to come to terms with the fact that the game had actually started (us). Misplaced passes, missed tackles, lacklustre ball control, Hollywood flicks and tricks, Windy Miller goal attempts, last-ditch defending and a flurry of penalty corners conceded and repelled by Big T and Jack C – it was looking like all the good work from previous weeks to get ourselves into the mix at the sharp end of the table was going to be undone in 20 turgid minutes. Somehow, the game remained goalless – the opposition’s profligacy in front of goal meant the Sixes were unbelievably still in the game.
Then, out of nothing, up steps Westy with a goal completely against the run of play in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Plenty of space in the circle, a calm swish of the stick and ball nestled nicely in the roof of the goal from a controlled slap. Unbelievable. A couple more nervy moments, but no goals conceded, and The Management were glad to get to half-time with the lead intact.
Words from The Management. Lots of them. Reasonably coherent. In mostly the right order. Not especially jovial, but what needed to be said was said, people looked like they had taken their instructions on board, and we steeled ourselves for the second half.
Hockey gold. Lots of it. In fact, and wholly appropriate for the pitch, in spades.
Whatever was said at half-time seemed to spur everyone into life – movement off the ball, great calling, superb decision making, good cover when required. And with this application came the spoils…a surging phase of possession from back to front culminated in a great pass from Twin #2, and a composed finish from Campers under pressure to make it 2-0. More great play, people chasing back to hassle and make it difficult for the opposition, and more chances came and went. Next up was another fantastic passage of play, the ball sweeping from right to left and back again, and Alfie popping up at the end of it to slot in, despite being wiped out from behind by an extra from Monty Python’s ‘Lumberjack song’ as he scored. Their goalkeeper was by far the busiest man on the pitch in the second period, and the score line could easily have been more – but a 3-0 win, with a clean sheet maintaining our single-figure goals against record, did not seem possible early in the first half yet here we were.
Fantastic application from the lads today to turn things around and get what was (in the end) a fully-merited 3 points – up to 3rd in the table, with the top three separated only by goal difference. Not bad for a promoted team of old duffers and (very) youngsters….the best part of today was that everyone dusted themselves off after a poor start to the game and really put the effort in – and we got our rewards. The fact that at least 5 different people got nominations for MoM this week speaks volumes…but there can be only one…
MoM: Alfie for a great all-round performance
DoD: The ‘honourable’ A. Haycroft for failing to negotiate London Underground’s ‘finest’ turnstiles…