A packed balcony, loud dance music and enthusiastic cheers welcomed 5A and their opponents Bedford Vets out onto the pitch at Snakes Lane. Possibly a record attendance for a Division 6SW East League game…. Alas the crowd and fanfare turned out to be centred on the Water Pitch for the Women’s 1’s but in consolation, the captain’s son watched us for several minutes before heading to the bar and the umpires largely kept their attention on the Sand.
The last couple of seasons have seen some good, close encounters between us and Bedford and with our visitors fielding a familiar and strong side, today was likely to be another tough one.
After last week’s largely veteran line up, we returned to a more familiar development side mix and the return of the Woods and a second 5A start for Alex Prior and Leon.
Early skirmishes were fairly even. Bedford’s quality centre-mid showed his worth but was well dealt with by Fergus and Alex and later in the game by Woody. The play was fairly open but the goal scoring chances were in Southgate’s favour until a first penalty corner to Bedford allowed them to get a shot on target and hit the backboard. 0-1 down after 15 minutes – not a fair reflection but we’ve been here before.
Some impressive play from our youngsters – Alex, James W and Fergus – experience of our defence and Woody and Michiel in midfield meant that we kept Bedford well out of our half and had numerous goal chances. This was the story for the rest of the first half and well into the second.
A decent Southgate performance in the first half developed into a good one in the second. We used the width of the pitch well, both James’s – Wood and Finlay – created trouble for Bedford in their distinctive styles. The Rays – Chris and Rob – were central to our effort – always available and always looking to press forward.
At last, after 55 minutes we got the goal we deserved – a first from Alex Prior. A betting man would have put at least a pound on Southgate’s momentum leading to another, and winning, goal. But, against the run of play, a Bedford breakaway, a long, hard driven ball into the D and a fine centre forward’s finish and the oppo were back in front.
Southgate stepped up to the mark – huge effort with Woody leading the way and right to the final whistle we always had a chance. This time it was not to be – umpire Will Hargrove blew for full time – no Fergie time for us – and no points either.
Many thanks to Will and Michael Burman for umpiring an enjoyable, close and disappointingly not victorious game.
Still, plenty of games left and lots of points to collect….onto Letchworth….