Despite enduring some truly awful Friday traffic, miraculously a full complement of players arrived in Somerset for a weekend of games around the beautiful West Country.
The players were led by player coach Charles Hamilton and Captain Will Hargrove with vocal support from the goal mouth from Club President Richard Beechener. Neil Prior lured by the promise of large quantities of West Country Cider kindly agreed to act as our travelling umpire on all three games played in beautiful and very humid weather.
To chart the on field adventures we have three match reports for your delight and delectation. Charting the off field adventures…we felt is best left to the imagination- suffice to say they involved a fiddle players, a magic carpet, some Havana cigars and Duncan Trathen.
Big thanks to our hosts, Tim our driver, the hotel for just about putting up with us and all who helped make this all happen.
Southgate HC Touring Squad
Neil Prior (travelling umpire) Charles Hamilton (player/coach), Will Hargrove (captain), Richard Beechener (GK), Lucca Bilyard, James Findlay, Simon Holmes, Jez Lavy, Joe Kelly, Dave Richardson, James Rushton, Chris Rouse, Richard d’Souza, Duncan Trathen, Alastair Whatley,Rory Willmott.
Game One, Friday
Vs Yeovil and Sherborne
Report by Chris Rouse and Simon Holmes
Under rain filled skies the Southgate West Country touring party left London for the county renowned for its golden cider. A taxing journey on a gridlocked m25 followed by a traffic laden A303.
Alastair chef de mission’s excellent planning and tour itinerary prepared the team wisely advising everyone to allow plenty of time for the journey.
Safely ensconced in the hotel bar the tour kit was presented and the team freshly kitted out had a spring in their step as they departed in the team coach with driver Tim.
The pitch was proving somewhat elusive. The team striking out across the rugby pitches of Millfield school to a rather abandoned looking hockey pitch and its clubhouse firmly locked up.
It was with some relief when over the hill the oppo appeared, West Country marauders in their light blue jerseys.
One lone female spectator cheered the oppo on from the sidelines – although perhaps she’d heard that Stroller was there with the visiting team.
The touring party made a sluggish start to the game with the oppo pushing forward and dominating possession. Player coach Charles Hamiltons’ first touch comforted the team, who had been struggling with the pitch which was at the same time both bouncy and sticky.
A swift attack from the home teams mid field saw the ball crashed across the face of goal and buried in the back of the net by their on rushing forward. 1:0
Gradually the touring team gained in cohesion, coming to terms with the foibles of the pitch. Gaining some momentum, stringing together some passes and pulling the opposition around the pitch.
A quick side line ball picked up by Charles who broke into the D and passed to ST who smashed the ball into the bottom left corner. 1:1
Goalkeeper Dickie having last played at the venue in 1983 advised us before the match he no longer dives. This is no way hampered his performance. His positioning was immense and kept the touring team in the match with some excellent saves.
The home teams second goal only eluded Dickie when an unfortunate deflection in the defence saw the ball loop over and into the net. 2:1
Player coach Charles girded the team at half time and Raj prophetically challenged everyone to give their all for the sweet taste of a victory beer
Taking to the pitch and dazzled by the lowering sun, the touring team upped their game. With dominant possession and field position the hosts were visibly tiring. Wave after wave of Southgate attack pushed the hosts further into their own half. The task of threading the ball through the melee of players and into the goal proving difficult. A driving run from Joe down the right almost unlocked the defence but was thwarted at the last.
The mounting pressure started to tell, resulting in a number of short corners. One saw the fiendish pitch undo the injector, the ball dribbling only a matter of inches. The defence pounced and offered up a counter attack only for it to be snubbed out by some fine defending from the backline.
With time slipping away it started to feel like the elusive equaliser would evade the tourers. In the last five minutes a short corner was won and the ball successfully injected. ST evaded the defence and slipped the ball to Charles who drove the ball home. 2:2.
One might think the team would be happy with the draw but this team had its sights on the win and the sound of Raj’s words ringing in their ears, the taste of that beer was almost sweet. Time was down to the last couple of minutes and as the oppo pushed back the tourers pressed hard causing a defensive mistake and a short corner. The ball was zipped into the D where Charles let fly a ripping shot that cannoned into the keeper. The ball falling to ST who finished the job. 2:3
The game was played in good spirits even if at times the sound of stick on stick seemed not to trouble the umpires. It was to Rory’s great credit and his wisdom that he backed up an excellent performance in defence by subbing himself in the closing minutes thus keeping a full compliment of players on the pitch.
MOM – Dickie
Mentions in dispatches – Rory, Joe, Simon, Luca. ST.
DOTD – Rory.
Game Two, Saturday
Vs Taunton Vale
report by Neil Prior
he second game of the inaugural West Country tour saw Southgate add inspirational captain (Will Hargrove) and inspirational pre-match speaker Richard “Relentless” D’Souza to our ranks for the Saturday afternoon contest against the Somerset Larder sponsored Taunton Vale Hockey Club (TVHC). Their sponsor’s strap line – printed on the front of their Y1 shirts – was “nourishing the community”. By the initial look at the opposition on arrival it appeared that the nourishment had been rather unevenly distributed with players of all shapes and sizes making up the bare 11 that faced the slightly jaded Southgate touring team.
The surface for the game was a delight compared to the Friday night’s game and the match got started at a good pace with honours even for the first ten minutes. But it was quickly going to become obvious that TVHC flattered to deceive – they were lethal on the break, route one, overloading the rather lack-lustre, ill-disciplined Southgate defence and scoring three goals in a ten minute spell in the first half that really put Southgate on the back foot and searching for inspiration. That inspirational speech by Stroller before the start of the game – talking about being RELENTLESS – had clearly got lost in translation – too many syllables (probably!).
However, a change of formation, plus Charles Hamilton deciding that coaching from the side was no substitute from getting his hands dirty by getting involved on the pitch made a difference in the latter stages of the first half and this led to a slick movement that was started from left back by Rory Willmott, passing to James Findlay on the left wing who fed the ball neatly to Chris Rouse (playing an unfamiliar Centre Forward) who was given two bites at the cherry and secured a goal with a delicate reverse stove into the TVHC goal. 3-1. An individual effort from Charles made it 3-2 but that good work was soon undone the other end when our Player/Coach and token so-called 1s player (Charles) made a mess of things at the back, was pick-pocketed and the quite brilliant Stuart Peters (52, ex Harlesden Magpies National League Centre Forward) roofed the chance with extraordinary relish. 4-2 it was to be at half time.
The half time team talk hinted at Southgate being more organised in defence and more clinical in front of goal being the best routes to success in the second half against a tiring TVHC team. As it transpired neither of these things happened! A glimmer of hope came with a nicely deflected goal from Lucca Bilyard to make the score 4-3 and this made it very much “Game On”. Joe Kelly was making runs from right back, down the flank, to the by-line, setting up gifts for the forward line only for them to disappoint not only themselves, their team mates, their Club as a whole but the travelling umpire too! A calm level head in front on goal when faced with a gilt-edged opportunity is needed – TVHC showed it in spades, Southgate left it in the bucket!
At 4-3 the game turned back in TVHC’s favour very quickly by self-inflicted poor decisions by the touring side – not mentioning names but Hargrove, D’Souza and Trathen were all guilty. This resulted in three quick goals to make to score 7-3. Southgate earned a consolation goal via Charles Hamilton to make the final score 7-4.
In some ways Southgate were outclassed, in other ways they gave the opposition too many opportunities which they took whereas the chances they created for themselves were wasted. Perhaps a harsh report and harsh lesson, but all was well once in the bar and enjoying the Somerset sunshine watching the local cricket match in the distance with a most convivial opposition – Thank You Taunton Vale for a great contest.
MOM- Joe Kelly
Mentions in Dispatches: Jez Lavy, Chris Rouse, Simon Holmes, ST
DOD- Duncan Trathen
Game Three, Sunday
VS Shepton Mallet
Report by Will Hargrove
FT* 2-1 (sort of)
*not actually full time
As we arrived at Shepton Mallet the skies were grey. Overnight we had lost (his other commitments necessitated a 5am departure) our dynamic player coach Charles Hamilton but other that this we has a “fit” band of men and of course our star travelling umpire – Neil Prior. When I say “fit” I mean 15 players who had hockey kit on and were on the pitch uninjured other than by the previous nights over eager drinking and cigar smoking. The warm was a thing of slow movement but gradually the squad started to turn their minds to the game. A long speech on tactics from “el Presidente” Dickie Beechener did see a few eyes gloss over as it went into its 5th minute BUT he made good points. After the speech of yesterday from Relentless d’Souza our captain for the day, Will Hargrove, had a go at a rousing speech and suggested we stay “connected” and “communicate”. In fairness we did.
The first half, after 5-10 minutes of opposition possession, was probably the best and most coherent of the tour. Good defending and distribution from the back in the form of James Rushton, Jeremy Lavy, Rory Willmott, Richard d’Souza and Joe Kelly with no lack of comms from the aforementioned Dickie. In midfield a new shape seemed to work well with Lucas Bilyard (identical twin brother of Lucca) at the top of the diamond, Will “half a hamstring” Hargrove at the back of the diamond and Raj Saha, Duncan Trathen and Simon Holmes sharing the leg work on the flanks. This left Chris Rouse, James Findlay, David Richardson and Alistair Whatley to caused havoc upfront in our 4-4-2 formation.
As soon as we had run around a bit is was clear that it was a very humid day! Possession was to be key and at times we resembled poetry in motion “total hockey” shall we say. With 20mins gone Whatley picked the ball up on the halfway and ran with focus and desire all the way to the by-line, surging into the D to get us a short corner. From the short corner Hargrove flicked straight at the keeper’s right hand the ball took the edge of the glove and hit the keepers thigh and from there bounced three times as it went in in slow motion – we were a deserved one nil-up. Things continued well until just before half time when the opposition scored. This slightly tarnished a good half of hockey.
Post the break the only change was Lavy and Rouse swapping roles. It stayed one-one for some time before the opposition squeaked in to the D and fired a well-struck shot low and hard at the goal. Beechener didn’t flinch as he said “going wide” – sadly it didn’t 2-1 down. The next ten minutes saw Rouse scrape a ball of the line – Dickie to a superman impression whilst trying to save with his head and various other calamities! As we pushed for an equaliser the opposite happened, 3-1. The mood did lighten when the cry of “Who’s man was he?” went up to answered by D’Souza and the immortal “he was mine but he ran past me!!”
We still had just over 12 minutes, or so we thought. Th pitch booking ran out at 1pm so this was reduced to 5minutes – a scramble ensued and Lucas had a half chance to give us a sniff but it was not to be…the sweat pouring off the players it as time for the pub – another good game. MOM was later comfortably awarded to James Rushton for a superb sweeping and pressure alleviating performance! Hargrove has the ignominy of being tour skipper but missing the only victory…who invited him!?
MOM James Rushton
Mentions in dispatches for Alastair Whatley. Duncan Trathen, Lucca Bilyard and Will Hargrove
Dickie of the Day – Dickie