Match Report : Alastair Whatley
Result : Southgate 1 – 6 Canterbury
Goal : Sim Bird
Southgate Mens 1’s slow start to the season continued with a tough match against a strong Canterbury side away at Polo Farm. After an improved performance last week against Sevenoaks there was hope for a big performance to combat the Canterbury attacking threat that put 8 goals on the scoresheet against Brighton last week.
The bucolic environs of Polo farm is a good place to watch a game of hockey and as the local ales warmed the crowds, two solitary Southgate supporters cut a dash on the halfway line. Although missing a few players from the match day squad we were fielding a strong side with Captain John Sterlini leading out the men in red and black facing up against the Canterbury men in green and white and with a familiar face propping up the goal mouth in the shapely form of ex-Southgate man Chris ‘Radar’ Rea who has recently moved south and joined his new local team. It was great to see Chris again…even if it was in the wrong shirt.
Southgate have started slowly in recent weeks and despite best intentions we alas started slowly again to the delight of the Canterbury fans who cheered in the first goal after just 3 minutes with a speedy attack cutting open holes in our defence leaving goal keeper Ollie Wickens no chance. 1-0 down and work to do. Ollie has really established himself in between the sticks in recent weeks, and he put in his best performance to date with crucial early saves which could easily have seen the strong Canterbury forwards putting 3 or 4 against the back board in the opening minutes. The first quarter was dominated by Canterbury and only towards the end did we manage to get the ball up into the opposing 22 and force the first penalty corner of the game. Unable to convert we went into the end of the quarter still 1-0 down but well in the game.
The second quarter saw Southgate beginning to impose themselves on the game. Tom Barrett getting his aerial distribution down the right channel and opening up some targeted crosses across the D which just evaded the sticks of the waiting forwards. Canterbury still posed a big threat on the counter, breaking hard and effectively but we shored up well defensively with Iain Gordon and the midfield working hard to track back and turnover play. A great ball from Tom Barrett to the left saw the ball into Sim Bird half way through the quarter which fell onto his reverse and with some quick thinking he took the ball on his vertical reverse piling it into the outstretched forearm of Canterbury goalie Chris. It was a superb bit of hockey all round. Chris went down as he nursed his arm back to life. Had that goal wended its way through to the net it may well have been a very different game.
Yet sometimes the scales of fortune fall against you. Despite a much improved second quarter of Southgate dominance, right at the death knell of the first half, a mistrap in our defence let a Canterbury attack pile on and a clinical finish followed into the corner. Canterbury went into the dugouts 2-0 up at the whistle.
The next goal would be crucial and the Southgate supporters hoped for a big response, alas fate and some loose defending worked against us and within a few minutes a high ball across the D was hammered home elbow high and into the netting, Ollie Wickens with no chance of preventing the 3-0 scoreline and leaving the men in red and black with a big hill to climb to get back into the contest. Ollie was called into action a few times in the ensuing minutes with some outrageous saves eliciting some very satisfying groans from the Canterbury masses who certainly made themselves known to the on field players as the second half continued. Southgate fought hard and in the last minute of the quarter a ball run in from the goal line was crossed neatly to the outstretched stick of Sim Bird who got Gate onto the scoresheet with a sniff of a come back sending us into the final quarter chasing a 2 goal margin.
Yet it wasn’t to be, a tight call from the umpire gifted the 4th goal to Canterbury and within the space of two minutes 2 more goals followed. Kudos to Canterbury they took their chances and finished with clinical precision. Southgate however didn’t take the 6-1 scoreline lying down and fought hard with Harry Haynes going very close forcing a good save from the goalie and 3 penalty corners which just didn’t quite come off.
We’re a proud club and nobody can pretend the 6-1 scoreline was the result we were after especially off the back of 2 defeats in the previous weeks. Yet the team continue to show the potential to turn their fortunes around and work their way back up the table. The next game is on Sunday against Havant at home. We urge you to come down and cheer the team on. A big win is needed to help kickstart the season and a full balcony to cheer on the boys is just what the doctor ordered. There will port and cheese and beer on tap- as well as some top quality hockey and we hope lots of goals to get the pulses racing and the blood pumping red and black.