Match Report by Will Hargrove
Southgate 4As successfully overcame a serious test of their mettle in battling to a 4-3 victory over St Alban’s in the early Saturday slot at Oaklands. Facing a team who were actually promoted from the same league last year before a club restructure kept them in situ, Gate knew they had a challenge on their hands when they could barely escape their 25 for the first quarter of the game. The central-defensive brains trust of Rushton and Huddleston quickly restructured the team into a 4-4-2 formation and Gate finally got a foothold in the midfield. The effect was instantaneous, two rare entries into the St Alban’s half suddenly highlighted the weakspot in the opposition’s team, it’s ageing defence, and firstly Kyle Shah, with a deft reverse shot that beat the keeper and looped over the last man on the line, and Sohan Dhana, with an opportunistic reverse stick head height slap, put the 4As 2-0 up. Scarcely deserved but warmly welcomed, Gate set about protecting the lead into the break. Sadly it wasn’t to be and after Jon Dann, who had earned his money with a couple of fabulous reaction stops early on, parried but didn’t quite stop a short, Huddleston got a stick on the line but was (in his opinion obviously) harshly adjudged to have let it brush a toe. St Alban’s dispatched the resulting flick to leave the half time score 2-1. Emboldened by some stern half time words about short passes and working the ball, Gate looked a far better team in the second half. Suddenly, as the game opened up, chances were created and Rich Martins began to pepper the opposition’s goal. The PC counter began to tick up and a third goal beckoned. It was then a tough pill to take when St Alban’s did to Gate what we had done to them, with two well taken goals, both deflected shots, to move 3-2 ahead. So this was the moment, would this young side implode or would it stand up to this test of character? One very elated skipper is pleased to advise it was emphatically the latter. Gate rallied, particularly on the flanks, and from a cannon of a strike from the edge of the D from Will Hargrove, the keeper could only parry it into the path of Simon Holmes on the post who coolly slotted the equaliser. Chances came at both ends but it was Gate who emerged triumphant and, after being denied a good call for a flick, Rich Martins took his frustration out at the next PC, struck a foot on the line, and Hargrove sealed the win with a solid penalty shot. Could have been a defeat, probably should have been a draw, but to steal a win with such a performance of mental strength and character bodes well for the challenges ahead.
Jon Dann was joint MOM for a dominant performance in goal. Stephen Gwynn-Jones added solidity at LB before injury intervened at half time.
James Rushton and Jon Huddleston, reunited in the middle, added grit and solidity and, unusually, some astute tactical restructuring, Sajiv Saha was back on form with silky skills and drive at RB. Raj Saha, the other joint MOM was his combative self and kept the team driving forward by fair means and (once) foul – he was immense. Will Hargrove and Simon Holmes were tireless battlers in midfield doing much to negate the more skilful oppo players. Kyle Shah added an intelligent performance in MF and AT to his fantastic goal and was at time unplayable. Fergus Comrie was tenacious and highly effective on the left, and did a tremendous defensive job in the last five at LB that shut down the St Alban’s attack. Upfront Rich Martin’s provided a constant threat and held the ball up to keep the team linked together and Sohan Dhana harried and challenges throughout, alongside another crucial goal (now 4 in 2 games) MOM votes also went to Dhana(2), Huddleston, Rushton and Shah What a day! Onwards now to a slip weekend before battle recommences at Stortford on the 29th. Come on the ‘Gate!