report by Mark Thomsett
(Goal Alastair Whatley)
Royals won, 2-1.
Tankards went down to a narrow, but hard-fought defeat to London Royals at Lee Valley on Saturday.
A rousing pre-match speech by captain Ben Milson, combined with the team being bolstered by a late injection of Garner energy, as Leo and Guy joined father Wayne in the team, meant that hopes were high that the Tankards could continue their winning streak in the Big Blue tournament.
An unfamiliar line up took a while to settle though, with the team finding themselves behind early on to a deflected goal from the Royals. Slowly but surely however, structure and organisation started to take hold, with Raj Saha sweeping in front and linking well with the midfield, and Robin Tullo and Chris Rouse breaking up Royals attacks on the left. The midfield, driven by b running and offloading, started to exert pressure on the Royals back line, allowing Guy and Leo Garner, Sajiv Saha and Fergus Comrie to turn the Royals defence and supply numerous balls into the D for the likes of Alastair Whatley, Andrew Pomiankowski and Wayne Garner to fashion goal-scoring chances. The Royal’s defence was well-drilled, and with a team all in their 20s and early 30s, their fitness and strength kept the Tankards at arms-length for much of the first half, despite several short corners being forced through the pressure.
The second half saw play start to get stretched and more chances created at either end. Nigel Dixon in goal makes several important blocks, and David James excelled at right back yet again, breaking up numerous attacks and instigating counters that opened up the whole pitch. Tankards’ quick play and good skills were rewarded when Guy Garner hypnotised the Royals defence with a mazy run to the byline, cutting the ball back to Alastair Whatley on the p-spot for a low, drilled finish for the equalizer.
The match continued in this fashion until, unfortunately for Tankards, a short corner was conceded, from which Royals scored the decisive goal, a deflected effort after the first attempt was blocked. A late rally wasn’t enough to salvage a draw, and Tankards went down to their first defeat of the competition.
On the balance of play, it was a fair result, but Royals were made to work hard for their victory and Tankards can go into the next match, against Old Loughts, with added experience and confidence.
MOM: David James
Thanks to Chris James for umpiring.