Our local rivals, Adelaide, had so far won five out of five to top the table. So Saturday’s game had much to play for at Ashmole School as the rain came steadily down.
The 5A’s lineup has settled into a familiar pattern with father and son combinations including James & Woody, Michiel & Tom, Neil C & Aidan, Peter & Will, Simon & Alex all complemented by the experience of Antony and fast developing U16’s such as Rafi and Oli.
Adelaide, this season, are fielding a younger, competitive side – promoted, undefeated, last year and looking to go further. This week, however, the 5A’s were determined to stop them running away.
We welcomed Aryan back to the team at right back and with Alex at left we had speed and skill to add to the experienced Michiel, Neil and goalie,Neil. This with midfield strength and depth of Woody, Antony, Simon and Rafi. Upfront the goals would surely come from James, Tom, Oli and the multi versatile and much travelled Randall (last seen heading to Stevenage for a 4 o’clock PB).
The game got off to a fast start with Adelaide getting the better of early skirmishes and we knew we were in for a tough match. After 10 minutes, Adelaide drove forward in numbers, attacking from the right and a strong shot found the corner of the goal. 0-1 down to Adelaide but a long way to go in this game.
5A’s settled down and our midfield steadily regained possession and our wingbacks nullified the attacks down the lines. Michiel imposed himself on the forwards coming through the middle. Upfront our forwards started to cause problems for the Adelaide defence – Tom and James regularly driving goalwards, Oli coming deep to collect the ball and Randall, just being Randall – always a handful.
The focus of play was increasingly in the Adelaide half and short corners followed. Our third PC in short order fell to Antony. Not for the first time this season, a strong flick fizzed past the goalie and into the netting. We’re back in this one, 1-1!
At half time, there was a sense that we could win this game provided we kept it simple and worked hard against what was proving to be a strong, fit and tough oppo.
The second half saw probably our best hockey of the season so far. The whole team stepped up a gear and outplayed the league leaders. Our younger players all showed great composure and skill under pressure – drove forwards with skill and took responsibility in defence. Alex and Aryan were excellent in defence, as was Rafi when covering for the injured Aryan. More shorts followed, attacks in the D, even a missed flick. Upfront Tom and James continually threatened to break down a very good defence and looked their best of the season.
On another day, this second half performance would have yielded 3 goals and 3 points. But it was not to be this time. A final score of 1-1 was disappointing in the end but without doubt showed how far this team has progressed in six games this season.
Strong performances all round the pitch was reflected in a number of MoM nominations, including Aryan and Rafi (building on the previous week’s MoM award). The winner, most deservedly, was Alex Holmes for great work repelling Adelaide’s pressure down the right.
Next week we host Royston, one point and one place behind us, in a fourth v fifth place thriller!