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Sparks 3 - 2 Gamblers (A)

17th March 2024

By Emily Hughes

The Sparks headed over to Crystal Palace’s beach volleyball ‘pitch’ for a must win game against Gamblers. We were under no illusion this would be an easy game, with Gamblers having a deservedly tough reputation. The usual midweek scrabble for players had been on, but thankfully Tarek and Val worked their wonders so we had what felt like the luxury of a sub. Thanks both. 

More familiar with the athletics track than the hockey pitch, I was contemplating a proper track and field warm up. I thought better when I could see the looks I was getting so toned it back to our usual open/close the gate with the obligatory disco drill thrown in for good measure. 

The game started, but we didn’t… two minutes in and Gamblers got straight on the scoreboard, ouch. That definitely wasn’t the game plan. It turned out to be the wake up call we needed, and some textbook slick passing from defence, through the midfield and out to Saya enabled her to drive down the right side, along the baseline and push the ball back to the p-spot. True to form Ruth was there to slot the ball straight past the keeper. Five minutes in and we were back to evens. 

Now well and truly awake, we dominated possession for the rest of the half. Sunny organising our stand-in defensive line excellently, with Courtney, Mana and Chantelle looking like they’d played in those positions for years. Charlotte fired rockets out from the 16, picking out Neve and Olivia who ran circles around the oppo. Lisa E then make for a golden debut with a beautifully placed reverse shot from the top of the D past the keeper’s right foot and into the goal. 

2-1 up at half time and dominating possession, spirits were high but we knew we couldn’t switch off. Louis, who either had cunning beyond his eight years, or had been paying no attention to the game, headed to join the oppo’s half time huddle. Unfortunately he didn’t bring any great insights back with him! 

We went out hard in the second half, aware we needed to be strong both on and off the ball. A couple of short corners were conceded but nothing was getting past Marlijn. Our turn to win a short, and Courtney does what she does best, firing a straight strike at the goal with inch perfect precision, to ping of the inside of the left post and smash the back board. Still 3-1 up with ten minutes to go and we could smell victory. A momentary lapse with a few of our players succumbing to the slippery sandy conditions, and at one point only having eight outfield players versus Gamblers 11 (GK subbed in a last ditch effort to grab some vital points) and Gamblers managed to sneak back another goal. 

However, we kept our calm, focused on keeping possession, and closed out the game with an excellent win. The fight for the league title is still on. 

Massive thanks to our travelling supporters: Maya, Nao, Grant and Louis. 

DOD: Me for forgetting my stick setting up for the second half (somehow this was deemed worse than the three cards we received…)

POM: Charlotte for her superb hits out from the back, with Neve a noteworthy second.