4As put in a rousing performance to hit the ground running as the East League kicked off again after the Winter break.

January 18, 2022

Facing a St Alban’s side that had significantly strengthened since our earlier league encounter, 4As were under pressure early and struggled to get out of their half, initially looking very rusty on their first touch. Relentless pressure from the team in orange told when a clinical flick from a short found its way high into the right hand side of the goal.

Earlier in the season, Southgate might have retreated into their shell. This time around, the goal was like an elixir and from that point onwards, Gate grew into the match and began to wrest control. Central to this was the addition of Alex Hyer and Arun Solanki on the right, who began to combine well, run at the Alban’s defence, and cause problems. A slick move down the right pulled the defence out of position and Ali Whatley applied a powerful sweeping finish to pull Gate level.

Alban’s looked shellshocked after their early dominance and they still looked punch drunk when Raj Saha muscled his way into the D and supplied a clear chance for Arun, who made no mistake. 2-1 at half time was on balance a little unfair on Alban’s, but the Gate second half performance fully justified the final score.

Gate looked increasingly dominant. The ball was moved crisply around the team. Samir Ahmed was brilliant in ball recuperation and Will Hargrove dictated the tempo from centre midfield. St Alban’s were by no means toothless but James Rushton, Jon Huddleston and particularly keeper Justin Edwards marshalled the central defence and restricted the opposition to few chances. Justin was quite simply immense, dominating his goal and even playing as a sweeper keeper at times helping to move the ball across the back.

The third and final goal was a lovely flowing move down the right instigated by the ever impressive David James, who was everywhere – tackling, tracking back, threading passes, and turning the opposition inside out. From one such move the outstanding Kiran Ghosh received a pass, turned sharply and dispatched a cool finish into the corner.

Gate managed the end of the game well and were well-deserved winners at the final whistle.

As we were one of the first games to be filmed at Fortress Snakes Lane, it will be interesting to see if the reality lives up to the impression!

There were great performances all over the pitch.

Alastair, Samir, Raj and Alex were a perpetual challenge for the St Alban’s defence. But what really made the difference was their tireless pressing and tracking back to make life difficult.

Kiran, Will, Arun and Simon Holmes knitted well in midfield. Kiran’s and Arum’s finishes were cool and clinical. Will provided a great outlet from defence. In a storming energetic performance, Simon was brilliant, and his running at short corners effectively nullified a very dangerous oppo routine.

At the back Sajiv Saha was his usual calm and accomplished self until he took a ball to the knee and David Wolffe was a model of calm, helping to get the game going forward down the left flank.

But MOTM by some margin was Justin. His interventions were timely and ensured all the attacking pressure was managed. He snuffed out any hopes Alban’s had of a comeback and made a huge contribution to a great win. Other votes went to the excellent Raj and also to the hard work of Samir, Arun and David.

Next week brings the challenge of league-leading Letchworth, a game 4As will face without fear as they turn their sights increasingly up the table.

Southgate Hockey Club. Great fun, great hockey, great facilities.