M5’s vs West Hampstead 5’s
Home, Saturday 26th March
Goal Freddie Trathen
It was as if the Gods knew that this top table match-up was destined for greatness, for come 11:30am it was writ’ that the skies would be cloudless, the air febrile and the sand pitch baked to near (but actually not quite) perfection in the dappled heat of what felt like a summers day.
This match up between 2nd and 3rd in the hotly contested Div5 NW of the the new London League was a must win game for both sides. With a game in hand against league leaders West Hampstead 6, Southgate 5’s knew that this was a crucial chance to press their title winning chances agains West Hampstead 5. For it was foretold that West Hampstead would have two teams in the league and that for some reason their 6’s would out perform their 5’s, but it was the 5’s who Southgate 5’s had to beat to try and win the league and beat the 6’s. And that as the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury would say to the nascent Henry V in the play bearing his name, ‘is as clear as is the summer sun’. (Ideally that line should be delivered by the actor with suitable withering irony for maximum impact).
In short- and to cut to chase- and to quote captain ST, ‘Win the game. Win the league’,
Clearly the Oppo had also read the same memo as come 10:30 their entire club (so it seemed) plus coaching unit descended promptly in Trent Park and immediately set to work in an intensive warm up that spanned the full 60 minutes.
Conversely your hardened Mighty 5’s professionals either didn’t get he memo (they did) or felt the need for some last minute reflections at the base of Snakes Lane would work better for them- and so by 11:10 we were still a few men short of our requisite number. Yet with as perhaps with all things it’s not how long it is, it’s what you do with it that counts and the 5’s put their 17.5 minutes to great use. So it came to pass that come 11:30 umpires Neil Prior and Will Hargrove blew their whistles on the game of the season.
The game began as a hugely cagey, physical and passionate encounter that would give Brief Encounter a run for its money. Playing 4-3-3 our solid defensive unit was dealt a blow when 5’s stalwart and master of the stick block Mat Mitchel retired hurt struggling to breathe (we have followed up and he has since rallied). Yet the likes of Willmott, Ramsey, Trathen (junior) and the maestro Nigel Knight rallied around, formed a square and fought off the advances of the West Hampstead press.
Yet for the first 20 minutes it was Gate who showed their muscles, as led by ST the Gate press forced errors and we found possession at our feet and on our sticks allowing us to camp up in the Hampstead 23. Quentin Wedmore hustled and harried from the off and Freddie Trathen was moving up on the right with daring getting balls onto the baseline. Andy Robertson was at his pugnacious best and forced our best chance of the first half about 25 minutes in as he hustled the ball into the D and only just missing James Marriott waiting for the tap in.
Yet the boys of West Hampstead with more subs pushed back hard as the half went on and began counter attacking with strength in numbers drawing the first short corner of the game. An ominous rumble of concern filled the thronging ranks of spectators (at least 5) as the half time whistle went and all the oppo gathered on the edge of the D with real intent. Yet the pressure peaked and the injector missed the ball almost entirely as Ivan Stark jumped on it as a spider to his prey and flung the ball to safety. 0-0 as The Mighty Fives drew breath. Quite a bit happened after that but all that springs to mind was of 5’s top signing of the season Duncan Trathen being rudely pushed off the ball within inches of no doubt scoring an incredible goal yet somehow not sufficiently persuading the umpires of the foul that he felt was worthy of a penalty flick. Instead a 16 was awarded and we got on with the game.
The half time talk featured Rory Willmott telling us not to the lose the ball, ST telling us to be better and Andy Robbo telling us the game was ours for the taking (basically don’t bugger it up). A triple whammy of approach but all dealt out with love and pure commitment to the cause. We put our stick face on and made a big shout (it goes, 1,2,3,4, ‘FIVES’- if you want to emulate it yourselves) and we raced back to the half way line in fine fettle.
Neil Prior uttered words of wisdom as the whistle blew to the tune, ‘it’s a cagey game, the winner will be the one who takes risks up top’ and with those words in the ear Southgate set about their work and dominated the opening exchanges. Our second PC was won and Rory stood up to take it ready to show up the other injector alas something went awry and instead of demonstrating his usual precision engineering instead he emulated the Hampstead injector and the ball trickled in, collected by Whatley who hurled it back into the fray but it just missed the outstretched sticks of our hungry forward line.
West Hampstead began to allow Gate the luxury of time in the midfield and in turn Gate obliged with strong runs down right and left led by the youthful vigour of messers Ramsay and Trathen who showed their skills and pace very nicely. One of these led to Quentin picking up the ball, shipping it west to Adam Shackleford who in a moment of inspiration instead of connecting with the ball for a devastating shot into the top left instead he almost missed it entirely and sent the ball with perfect timing at a snails pace in to the defenders big toe. A magnificent short corner was won. This time Rory went for the slap hit injection and found his target but alas it jumped over Ivan’s stick at the top, was picked up by Robbo and sent back into the fray where this time it was sent wide of the post. Everyone shouted at the forward line (largely Alastair Whatley despite him being on the other post at the time). 0-0.
Then West Hampstead countered with 3 successive short corners, 2 of which bungled the injection again and the 3rd was easily dealt with by Sam Levene in goal and Rory Willmott the scourge of Div 5NW attackers throughout Greater London. Still 0-0 with 5 minutes to play.
Gate then won another short this time courtesy of Scott Ramsay and this time Rory found the sweet point and send it gliding swan like onto Ivan’s stick who shipped it right to ST for the zig zag which Ivan sent onto the keepers pads, Whatley they puckered up a reverse which the keeper darted left to save despite the protestations of Willmott who was in acres of space to the left. Still 0-0.
The whole of Trent Park held their breath. A draw was not enough for either side and so West Hampstead broke and broke hard, galloping up the pitch, wind at their heel through our 23 and leaving Sam Levene exposed with a near certain 1-1 chance for the big man of WH to surely effect the win. But then came the moment of the season (possibly) as Levene danced to his left, then hoofed right and as the striker connected Sam reacted at the pace of Elon Musk’s opportunism and threw his stick wide which glazed the ball with just the right velocity to divert a certain goal over the goal to safety as the whole of Enfield exhaled. It was a superb piece of keeping and changed the momentum of the game in an instant.
And still the 5’s were not done and after a bit of argy bargy and how’s your father and with the clock with less than 90 seconds to play, Robbo found himself on the ball just north of our 23. He spied a Trathen run (the junior variety) and laced it with clinical precision and real pace as Fred threw his stick for the deflection as the ball made contact and then took flight with angel wings floating like Icarus over the keepers flailing stick and hard against the netting which billowed with such beauty that the Gods smiled and Southgate cheered as the Mighty 5’s took the lead with just seconds to go. 1-0.
At which point ST took control, refused to be subbed and ran the ball into the corner for fear of anyone else buggering it up and within 60 seconds the whistles went and victory was ours. Let joy be unconfined.
It was in truth a fine team effort reflective of some great collective responsibly and pure graft and determination. A hard fought game played hard but in good spirit and very well umpired by messers Prior and Hargrove to whom we as ever deftly doff our Fedora’s to. The result leaves the 5’s in 2nd with two games to play to continue to press for promotion and the possibility of even winning the league.
Much work to be done, but by the Gods it felt good on Saturday (just ask Duncan).