It’s the game the league had been waiting for, it’s a game England Hockey had called the match of the weekend and it turned out to be the game of the season (so far) for Southgate W1’s who saw off a strong and dynamic Guildford team with a consummate performance under the darkening Godalming skies.
A squall of Southgate supporters had made the journey and sought each other out on the sidelines, comments were made about the louring skies and the almost certain fact that a nail biting 80 minutes of action was sure to follow. And so it proved.
Guildford immediately pressed high and hard showing a turn of pace and coincidence which showed exactly how they had got themselves into such a commanding position in this their first year in the National league. Southgate broke out of the press early though with Emma McIntyre turning over the ball and defeating the only remanning Guildford defender, 1-on-1 with the Guildford keeper she turned to move the ball onto her reverse as the Southgate Squall held their breath- yet a poorly placed leaf (it was concluded from the sidelines) had conspired to slip McIntyre just as she moved to shoot. 0-0 and game on.
The first quarter ebbed and flowed but little else transpired in the way of shooting opportunities for either team, Molly Smith in the Southgate goal didn’t see any of the ball and there seemed little to separate either team.
The second quarter saw an injection of increased intensity from the Southgate side, balls shot around from stick to stick and team started expressing themselves creating breaks, chance and turnovers. Jess Olorenshaw, despite being under the weather on the day, showed real flair on the ball and Lorna Cruickshank was an increasingly dominant presence up front. It was however Elisa Filarmonico who really pressed the button in her quick thinking from a free hit outside the Guildford 23, Filamonico ran directly at the D without giving Guildford a chance to set, she drove hard and right and planted a ball hard across the goal and past the Guildford keeper cueing ribald scenes on the touchlines. 1-0.
Andy Richardson’s side showed no signs of resting on their laurels and continued to command the quarter and shortly after the goal the games first PC was awarded with Lorna injecting to Charlotte Kelly stopping cleanly before number 11 Flora Walker collared the ball hard and low left of the keeper who dived (or as described by W1 expert Steve Smith ‘logged’) early and kept out the strike. So nearly 2-0 but the game ran into half time at 1-0 with Southgate were dominating.
The second half inevitably saw Guildford in front of a well voiced home crowd spring to life, chances came at both ends yet still Southgate dug in led by captain Ellie Robinson in the midfield who along with Sophia Martin in the screen kept the ball fizzing around the Guildford pitch. Helen Cathcart made her presence felt down the right channel with a sublime period of harrying and hustling, turning over the ball repeatedly and linking up nicely with Flora Burrows who was never far from the action.
Molly Smith was called into action making a succession of strong saves from some nifty Guildford attacks and true to the worst fears of the Southgate Squall the game went down to a nail biting final with Guildford pressing hard for that all important equaliser. Yet the defence held firm, Ellie Halliday deserving special mention for her trenchant defiance under intense pressure.
Yet the minutes wore down and on the final whistle Southgate celebrated as worthy winners in a fantastic game of hockey played in front of an excitable crowd who enjoyed some moments of brilliance but perhaps above all the game was an example of a team in synch, and march step, working for each other on and off the ball and going that extra mile to get the result.
Thanks to all the Southgate supporters who made it and congratulations to Andy, Ellie, Karen and all the players on a deserving win. The W1 go into the Christmas break in pole position and will resume the campaign in February looking to repeat the first half and push on for promotion.