Dogged defence and a Woodland goal send Southgate close but no cigar in game of fine margins.

Result : LOSS 1-2 vs Old Cranleighans

Match Report : Alastair Whatley

Much of Saturday afternoon was spent with dark skies overhead and large amounts of rain water descending with febrile intensity.

Yet as we approached 5:30pm in the Jerome K Jerome-esque Thames Ditton the players and spectators were granted a reprieve as the skies cleared for a crunch game against two teams sat cheek by jowl in the Division 1 South table.

It’s been a few weeks of change for the M1 and the squad arrived at Old Cranleighans off the back of two defeats looking for an important 3 points to kick start the second half of the season. The last face off between the two teams saw ‘Gate undone in a 1-3 loss on home soil. OC’s have had their ranks swelled with Pakistani International Mohammed Irfan adding additional threat to their offensive lines. The stage was set and the battle lines drawn in colours of blue & orange on one side and the Southgate white away strip on the other.

Fortunately the Southgate Away Supporters Club were out in full throated force (all 6 of us) and took up their positions in the front row of OC’s rather lovely 87 year old wooden stand as the home support gathered encircled around us, one of them even bringing a loudspeaker.

The previous week against Bath the team had been undone in the first 4 minutes by a slow start, yet inspired by interim coach Thaddeus the boys started like greyhounds in the slips and went at OC’s with a real intensity. Within minutes a sharp aerial from Thaddeus was brought down by Giles on the right wing who shipped to Guilio who clubbed the ball hard onto the near posy for a neat touch from captain John Sterling just missing the target. Seconds later Gate turned over a ball from the OC’s 16 as Guilio again drove down the right channel one handed with the flair of the Azzurri out-pacing the defensive lines he drove hard into the D as demon midfielder Giles Woodland shipped his defender and moved like a silent assassin to the P spot as Guilio passed back from the goal line for a clinical finish (and herculean roar) from Giles. 1-0 to the Gate.

The next five minutes saw Gate dominate possession with plenty of circle incursions, the ball never quite falling onto our attacking sticks to drive home the advantage. The call then came to move to zonal marking which alas swiftly saw Gate slightly drop the ball as OC’s began to counter with real venom, Gate being dispossessed on the half way line leaving a 2 on 2 which promptly saw Ben Roe from OC’s roofing a ball with lighting pace into the top netting leaving Ollie Wickens in the Southgate goal with no chance. 1-1. Game on.

OC’s then began to build well and then pressed the trigger setting up a move that caught us on our heels as William Marshall clinically finished with a snorter of a shot on his reverse. Two quality goals that gave OC’s a 2-1 lead at the end of Q1.

Q2 resumed with a real game of cat and mouse. Southgate still dominating possession and winning a penalty corner neatly taken by our number 6 Jonny Maunder which fired into the right corner but alas well saved by the stick of their post man. Guilio continued to look dangerous linking play well with Thaddeus, Iain, Rob Gill and Christy all distributing the ball well from the back. OC’s are a tight unit and pressed well, yet the defence continually found their way out with some good quick ball movement (early easy!). Barney Collier and John Sterlini in midfield both looking threatening with searching balls into the D.

Half Time came with the score unchanged at 2-1 and all to play for. The away support retired to the bar to jostle with the rugby players and came out the better for it ready to shout down the man with the loudspeaker as Mandy, Milly BC and Messers Collier, Gill and Woodland all upped the volume from the stands.

OC’s came out of the blocks strong in Q3 winning a short corner which was driven hard to the right post and saved as per a Flintoff pull-shot by Thaddeus which kept the game alive as Gate found some strong counter attacking momentum, Robbie Gill charging down the left channels to challenge the OC’s dogged resistance.

Up front Matt Allister and Sim Bird were working hard alongside Charles Hamilton and Rob Schilling yet the balls never quite fell. And the spectators hearts began to flutter as ended Q3 still a goal behind.

Q4 was breathless and end to end, a further OC’s PC went hard and wide and 2 Gate PC’s were ran down and the follow up play not finding the OC backboard. The umpires cards began to flash on both sides as things heated up. Both sides began using the vertical space more as the minutes counted down but some tight Southgate defending managed to effectively shut down the OC threat.

With 5 minutes to go our goal keeper Ollie Wickens was called off as Southgate went to 11 outfield players and a high press which soon yielded a strong man advantage as OC’s lost a player with a yellow meaning it was 9 outfield vs 11. Gate harried, parried, hustled and jostled and staved off the OC’s counter attacks on an open goal yet still couldn’t find that elusive equaliser. The away support roared as the seconds ticked down and even with 10 of those seconds remaining hope remained as the team camped just outside the OC’s D with real intent- yet the bus had been parked and the seconds slipped away as the final whistle drew the game to an end.

Hard fought but keenly felt at the end- the boys well deserved at least a point but in a game of fine margins that was not to be. The positives remain and there were spells of some very good hockey played and a real team effort which bar a few lapses of focus in a 5 minute window in Q1 saw Southgate dominate for large portions of the game.

This weekend the squad go again and face Sevenoaks at home. The last game at Holly bush Lane was agonisingly lost in the very final minutes in another very close 2-1 defeat. This Saturday we look to turn the tables and get 3 much needed points. Do get down to lend your support to the team, lets make sure the balcony is a sea of red and black as spectators can enjoy the delights of a Corney & Barrow sponsored cheese and port feast alongside some quality hockey.

Thanks to the supporters who travelled, to Simon Parker for combining managing and match photography, to Matt Anderson who came down to run the bench despite of his injury and to the team for putting in a massive shift on the pitch and finally to Old Cranleighans for being great hosts.