Match Report : Neil Murphy
Result : DRAW 2-2 vs Blueharts
Up the A1 again to take on the combined might of Blueharts and Storm Arwen. A cold, blustery day welcomed us to Hitchin for this mid-table clash.
A core of 5A players were delighted to welcome Alastair and Mat and no fewer than 4 Spencers to our fold. Regulars, Antony and Daniel Spencer, were this week supported by Antony’s elder sons, Ben and Joe, both making their Southgate debuts. So, a 14 man squad was ready for action.
Southgate settled quickly into the game with good control at the back and in midfield, enabling us to transition the ball quickly and attack the Blueharts D – most effectively when using the width of the pitch. Our forwards received plenty of ball with Alastair, Sohan, James and Joe all putting the Blueharts defence under pressure. Short corners followed and an excellent drag flick from Daniel was buried into the back of the goal. More strong attacking play with the midfield driving forward kept up the pressure and two minutes before half time, Alastair took his chance well. 2-0 and an excellent half of hockey from Southgate.
However, this was a canny, experienced Blueharts side supported by some good youngsters. We had seen enough to know that this game was far from over. They’d had a number of short corners and action in our D to suggest a tough second half was ahead. Our defence, led by Mat and Chris, and some smart saves from Neil Commons had ensured our clean sheet thus far.
The second half followed the path of the first. Southgate largely dominated with impressively mature performances from Sohan and Rafi. The whole Spencer family were in the thick of the action with Dad, Antony, rallying the family and largely remembering all their names, more so than the captain… but they were moving around quickly and a long way up the field.
Blueharts though started to build the pressure and had numerous short corners. Eventually they converted one with a neat move. 2-1 with ten minutes to go. This was going to be tough.
We battled hard, creating yet more chances but the Blueharts defence managed to keep us out and we were unable to win short corners in the way we had in the first half. As time went on, the game opened up and Blueharts were effective in the counter attack. With three minutes to go another attack paid off with the ball trickling over our line despite valiant defensive efforts. 2-2 and Blueharts were scenting the turnaround of the season but time was running out….
Another breakaway and the ball was on the end of their centre forward’s stick two yards out from our goal….three loud blasts on the whistle called full time just before the said forward deflected the ball high into the top right of our goal. No matter…too late, the game was over… a 2-2 draw. With relief and regret that we had not taken more of our chances, the 5A’s departed the scene with a point secured.
A great, battling performance. Some of our better hockey of the season warranted more but could so easily have been less. As we approach the Christmas break, it has been great to see the increasing confidence and maturity of our younger and newer players. This weekend, Rafi and Sohan stepped up and showed their quality alongside Fergus. Special mention though to the hockey family, Spencer. Four members from one family is a rare feat, they battled hard and showed their clear ability and drive. We will need them all again soon and look forward to welcoming them back.
A number of well deserved MoM votes to Chris, Rafi, Mat and the goal scorers. The winner though was Mat for a solid defensive display. Next stop, home to Bedford Vets – always a good battle.