Bird Brace see M2’s back to winning ways at West Hampstead

Southgate Men’s 2s travelled away to West Hampstead to play their 8th league fixture of the season. Another must win game if the M2s to ensure they remained top the London Prem table, however it was not going to be easy. West Hampstead, unbeaten in 5 game and notorious for their solid defensive platform were going to be very tough to break down.

The M2s started the game strongly, dominating the majority of the attacking play. A mazy high break up the right-hand side-line by Shep Shepherdson saw him carry into the circle and set up Southgate’s 1st short corner. Southgate forced a save off PC No1, where the keeper deflected the ball dangerously back into the circle resulting in a second PC. PC No 2 saw Sim Bird flick the ball goal bound, only to hit a WH foot, which lead to PC No 3 being awarded. From the top, Louie Lincoln Sadler flicked low into the right hand corner forcing a fantastic stick save by the keeper, and sadly the score remained 0-0.

In the centre of the park, former 1st team skipper and British over 33’s triathlete Ellis, kept the Southgate structure solid and along with Hollett, Sleeman, Dongha and Browne ensured intensity in the Southgate midfield was 100% throughout the first half. Some excellent turnovers in the press kept WH on their toes throughout the first half.

Despite Southgate’s forward line creating several scoring opportunities with Bird and Haynes continually looking threatening, the score remained 0-0 at half time. 

The second half saw Southgate continue to mount pressure. Caretaker manager Paul Dongha maintained work rate though continued expert rotations and eventually a few cracks began to appear. Some calculated leading from Westbrook and Lomas enabled Southgate to progress more effectively in the second half.

When returning Scottish international Aedan McCrossan, reunited with his brother Will on the pitch, was inches away from connecting with a Sim Bird reverse stick cross on the back post, you could feel a goal was not far away…

At around 60 minutes, Sadler, who had been solid throughout, delivered a wide pass to Wickham on the left hand line, (not to be confused with Wickens, who was stood 50 meters away, between the Southgate posts). From the halfway line, Wicks delivered a pass into Sleeman who carried strong into the WH 25. Sleeman then slipped the ball to Fell, who appeared to be suffering from a nose bleed high in the opposition 25. Fell carried into the circle past 5 or so players, on hitting the baseline he slide the ball back to Bird on the 45, who smashed the ball Gretski style into the roof of the goal. Finally, Southgate 1-0 up!

The game then picked up pace, with WH pressing forward in attack and mounting pressure with a more aggressive press. This was a real test for the Southgate D-Unit, especially when Southgate went down to 10 men after picking up an unfortunate yellow card. However, despite the pressure Wickens, Rookes, Shepardson, Wicks, Sadler and Fell kept WH out. 

Wickens made 2 excellent reaction saves in open play and the defensive short corner team ran down and saved 4 WH shorties to keep the score 1-0. The 4th WH short corner saw Harry Haynes muster a stroke of genius. Recognising the step up in WH intensity, he decided to nullify the mood and perplex players and spectators alike by taking 3 minutes and 47 seconds to fit a single protective glove. At the end of the 3 minutes and 47 second break in play, WH appeared to have forgotten the routine they originally planned to run,  glovegate had worked effectively. 

With 4 minutes to play, Fell noticed Sim Bird alone on the WH baseline, just outside the WH circle.  Bird secured an ariel pass from Fell, then carried strong into the circle, beating 2 players along the WH baseline to create a 1-1 with the WH keeper. The keeper had the near post blocked, so Bird decided to take to the air. The diving swoop saw Bird carry the ball past the keeper mid-air and then push the ball in flight into the WH goal. Southgate had secured the 3 points and went for a beer.

Next weekend the M2s take on Wapping HC at Southgate HC – start 13:30pm