When they knew the Men’s 5s were coming to St. Albans they decided it would be prudent to put their Men’s 1s on the undercard, just to whet the crowd’s appetite for what was to come. As we watched the ball fly from stick to stick, the players run at pace from end to end & a lovely reverse stick flick over the keeper to score, we thought, that’s all a bit unnecessary, we’ll show them how real hockey is played!
We won the toss, and decided that we would avoid facing that bright disc in the sky that nobody seemed to recognise (except Pete K who had spent the winter in South Africa, all right for some!). St Albans 10s is a development team so the age differential was quite extreme, I would say our average age was somewhere north of 50, theirs was somewhere south of 20, so we would have to be canny about how we played, our pace would not trouble them, nor would our close control stick skills (somebody mentioned 3D skills & we didn’t have a clue what they were talking about), but if we passed the ball crisply & worked the ball wide we would stand a chance.
The first half was an even affair, few chances created at either end, most of the play confined to the centre of the park where Alex Gilmore, Oskar Higgins (in his first game of the season for us), Alex Winwright & Andy Prentice battled hard to win & use possession to our advantage, this was aided by some good running up front by Jackson Stuart, Brian De Mattos, David Sutcliffe, John King & Colin Izzard. When tested the defence held strong, Peter Kuipers, Ian O’Dell & John Baxter dealing with the threats posed by the young St Albans attack as best they could, even though they had a few short corners Pete Walker in goal wasn’t tested too much. We had the luxury of bringing on Tom Walker to give some fresh legs as the late afternoon heat took its toll on some. Eventually, we broke down their defence and a smart ball into the D from Alex G allowed Dave S to strike the ball smartly past the keeper. This spurred them into action, Pete W made a new friend, the left hand goal post, they struck it 3 times, but each time we cleared the rebound! As we drew towards the end of the half, Oskar took a blow to the foot & Alex G took a breather, and with only a few minutes to go, St Albans equalised.
Half time consisted of a bit of banter & wishes for more of the same 2nd half, plus the sad news that Pete couldn’t take his new friend with him, he would just have to make new ones at the other end. By now the crowd that had been watching the 1s had somewhat dissipated, so we knew their heads would be down & we flew out of the blocks, smart passing down the right & a foot on the edge of their D allowed Alex G to take a quick hit, tip-toe along the edge of the D for about 5 metres, slip into the D & strike into the corner, 2-1 up with only seconds of the second half played. After that it was all very even, we got the ball forward at every opportunity, but nothing was forthcoming, they attacked, but it was either broken up in the midfield or by the defence. They had a couple of late short corners, now being taken by their senior players, one blocked by John B rushing out, the other which, though too high, was picked off smartly by Pete K before it did his midriff any damage. We ran down the clock, using our guile & larger stature to keep possession & frustrate their youngsters. The umpires, who had both had very good games, blew for full time and both teams were left to reflect on a very fair & competitive game of hockey.
Man of the match was close, with Andy taking it by one vote.
So, a fine 2-1 win to finish the season, no danger of being promoted, and a lot of fun had by all. Here’s looking forward to next season. Thanks all.