Southgate’s Men will be ruing a missed opportunity to seal their promotion after taking a strong first half lead before ultimately letting Old Loughtonians walk away with a famous victory.
The stage was set fair, over 700 spectators gathered on the balcony, on the steps and in the new stands, the red smoke poured out onto the pitch as the men in red and black ran out to loud cheers around Trent Park for the conclusion of Southgate’s Super Saturday.
Yet Lee Ible and Old Loughts clearly spied an opportunity to upset the Southgate coach’s script as Kwan reported an injury ravaged side with some key players either walking wounded or laid up. Yet it was Southgate who dominated the first half entirely. An early corner injected out by Jack Middleton was flicked hard and right by Marcano and blocked by the arm of the Loughts postman, Middleton nearly put it away on the breakdown but the umpire awarded a flick neatly converted by Kwan Browne who sent Jack Tranter in the Loughts goal the wrong way before sending the ball home into the netting. The Southgate support cheer reverberated dan snakes lane and onto Chase side. Southgate immediately pushed on piling on the pressure but unable to convert it before the end of Q1.
Marcano picked up the pace early in Q2 with a driving run down the right from an early taken free hit, the ball laced into top D to Charles Hamilton who laid it off nicely for the charging Southgate no.16 who pulled off a superb touch to play the ball onto the foot of the Loughts no.6 Loughery for a PC. Marcano flicked, Tranter saved and there followed a mad-cap ruck of red and black players, Tranter in pink pads and the men in purple and white all hacking and picking at the ball as if in a contested colourful Saxon shield wall. Putting an end to the chaos, umpire Rob Jenkins awarded a 2nd PC.
Ferrini injected the follow up, stopped cleanly by Weissen and flicked high and left by Marcano the ball screaming into the netting past Tranter’s outstretched stick making it 2-0 and Southgate were looking stronger with every passing minute. A contested challenge from Rob Gill brought play to a halt for some minutes yet the break in play seemed to galvanise Loughts and upset Gate’s rhythm as on the restart led to repeated turnovers- nevertheless the game went into half time with Southgate dominant and the game looking comfortably in their reach.
There was some imperceptible shift that took place in the opening Salvo’s of Q3, at first Southgate seemed their usual comfortable selves passing and moving the ball quickly and accurately opening up pockets of space and pressing with intent, Loughts began countering strongly but were unable to link up with their top line.
In the end it took a moment of brilliance from Euan Gilmour to change the game, as Gimour picking the ball up outside the D danced his way into the D past 4 Gate players turned onto his reverse and beat Savvas Hadjigeorgiou between the Southgate sticks as the ball was sent hard into the far corner to make it 2-1. The game was very much back on with just minutes left on the clock for Q3.
Gate looked to consolidate possession in the dying minutes of the quarter and continued to attack yet increasingly found themselves giving the ball away in the final third of the pitch allowing Loughts to rain down aerials in the corner pockets one such ball connected with Gilmour this time on the right and again he drove through a succession of Southgate sticks and fired a bobbling reverse shot past Savvas’ near post squaring the score line at 2-2.
The game had swung into Old Loughts favour and Lee Ible’s side began to dominate each play with Gate firmly on defensive footing. Yet still Loughts attackers were able to glide past the men in red, Conor McGregor leaping in a diving deflection from nowhere to make it 3-2 at quarter time in a remarkable 10 minutes of open play.
And still Loughts continued to take control as we went into the final quarter. Yet Southgate managed to win their only PC in the 2nd half in a bid to bring the game back to parity alas ran down well by the visitors. Kwan pushed his side for the equaliser with the home crowd on the edge of their feet hoping for a fairy tale end to Super Saturday. Instead it was Loughts who in an another attack from the right alas left Gate overloaded in front of goal as Max Sydenham packed away their 4th.
With minutes to play, Kwan took off keeperSavvas Hadjigeorgiou in a last gasp effort to change the momentum. Max Sydenham was soon seeing yellow after a hasty challenge on Rob Gill leaving Southgate with a 2 man outfield advantage. A final shot down the boughs of Loughts right flank gave Dan West a shot which went just wide. The 16 that followed however saw a long aerial sent down the middle which got behind Weissen and Gill for Harvey Edwards to simply tap in for the nail in the game’s coffin. Loughts had picked the Gate pocket for a big 3 points and a tough pill for the red and black support which lined the pitch. Yet their voices were undiminished in the chill of the evening air as the players walked off the pitch- their names rang out in chants and songs from the balcony.
The game offered a record breaking crowd a great spectacle and the party that followed continued late into the night celebrated a great day and a thrilling game of hockey. The men re-group to go again next week away at Bath. Promotion sits still just 2 wins away.