A patched-together M5As made the trip to a wet and windy St Albans to play Harpenden and after a shaky first half came away with a share of the points, and nearly all three.
Struggling to impose themselves in a first half that saw few clearcut chances, the M5As tried to play their passing hockey, but found the Harpenden midfield and defence more than a match for them. It wasn’t a surprise, therefore, to see the home team open the scoring through a scrappy goal that was merited on the balance of play. 1-0 at the break.
The second half was a different matter though: a more determined Southgate came out with real purpose – stepping up and being sharper in the tackle, upping the ball speed and using the width much better. A defence of Kieran Slorach, Tony Mastroddi, Chris Rouse, Nigel Spencer-Knott restricted Harpenden to minimal possession in the D, and Nigel Dixon swept up on the few occasions that they came anywhere near the goal. Chris and Rob Ray, alongside Oli Yaoz started to take control of the midfield, pinning Harpenden back into their 23. A rotating forward line of Peter Roughton, Freddie Bachler, Alex Prior, MS Patti and Chris Gerrard worked well to produce a string of short corners that drew excellent saves from the Harpenden keeper. Openings were regularly created, but it took a moment of real quality to break through the Harpenden defence, with Oli Yaoz, Freddie Bachler and Alex Prior combining in a slick, fast passing move from backline to byline, cutting through the Harpenden team and leaving them chasing shadows, serving up a chance to Peter Roughton on the P-spot, who tucked it away neatly. 1-1, and the momentum was with Southgate. Harpenden spent the final ten minutes hanging on, as opportunities were created and saves made. When the final whistle came, they were definitely the more relieved side. A game of two halves, then, and the M5As can be proud of the way they came together as the match went on. Freddie Bachler picked up several votes for MotM, but it was Alex Prior, in his senior debut, who took the honours, for a fine display of technical skills, hard work and excellent passing.