Jokers 1 - 5 Men's 4s (H)
By James Hey
While some of the SHC community were keenly awaiting the Ladies and Men’s 1s “double header” at Sugden Road, those in the know were at pitch side nice and early to watch the real double headers… Sparticans vs Cobras and Jokers vs M4s.
On another stunning day at the home of hockey, the mood in the Jokers camp before the game was relaxed and upbeat – some more apprehensive than others as it was their first run out of the season against a talented (and more youthful) 4s team.
The first 10-15 minutes were pretty frenetic, the 4s threatening and making the most of their possession, but on the whole the Jokers were able to soak up the pressure. As you can imagine there were a few words of encouragement to the umpires, but Messrs Wadsworth & Lloyd set out their stall early and let everyone know (quite rightly) that insolence would not be tolerated!
Fortunately both sides gradually settled into their own games – the 4s with their fast and direct hockey, the Jokers finding gaps in behind the 4s midfield, passing and moving well. It was end to end hockey with neither side backing down, but it was only going to be a matter of time before the deadlock was broken. A slight lack of concentration from the Jokers, leaving Rory unmarked in the D, allowed the 4s to capitalise on some good build up play and score their first goal from open play, but it wasn’t long before the Jokers equalised through a Bloxham screamer from two yards. This is about the time most of the Jokers lost their memory as we could hardly breathe from doing about ten Big Dogs in a row!
Half time approached and it looked to be heading for 1-1 at the break, but again some poor execution down the left gifting the 4s the ball ended up with the Jokers out of position and the 4s capitalised, scoring with only seconds left. Frustrating but we were still very much in the match.
The second half was everything you’d expect from a Surbs vs Surbs encounter. Incredibly competitive with heaps of “friendly banter” - the 4s went down to eight (probably could have been seven!), the Jokers went down to ten twice, but don’t let that take away from an extremely enjoyable 35 minutes of hockey (and it wasn’t that type of game).
For 20 minutes of the second half the Jokers were in the driving seat. Firstly Burns created space in the D and crossed for Stone but the pass just went adrift; then Balbernie ran from just inside the opposition's half into the D where he was upended in front of goal… surely a stroke? Unfortunately not… only another short corner (we had eight!) which the Jokers failed to capitalise on.
The Jokers were then made to pay for their misses and lack of fitness. The 4s stayed patient and continued to attack with speed and precision; in the end the Jokers couldn’t contain the swaths of green shirts and three goals came in quick succession.
The Jokers did themselves proud and it was great to have the majority of the squad together for the first time in a while. The 4s will be contenders for the league this season, but the Jokers will be ready for them in the return fixture after Christmas. Thanks to Dan and Lloydy for umpiring and to the 4s for playing their part in a very enjoyable game.