A tough opening set of fixtures for the M7s continued with a trip to West Hampstead. Late changes to the squad left the team with one sub and a stand in goalie on an unseasonably hot October day.
Southgate had a new look midfield – welcoming debutant Dan McGrath – a close-season transfer from Maidstone – and with a returning Simon Bate back in the fray after injury. Alongside stalwarts Michiel Van Soest and Chris Rouse, the plan was to dominate the centre of the park numerically and give the forward line of James Wood, Freddie Bachler and Finn Batchelor more freedom to roam up front.
The first half was very evenly matched, with both teams taking a while to settle into a defensive structure that effectively combated midfielders running from deep. A back line of Neil Murphy, Mark Mather, Luke Mather and Mark Thomsett were just about holding West Hampstead at bay, with host of fine interceptions and tackles. On the few occasions when they broke through, Randall Hyer, stepping up to take a turn in goal, was more than capable of sweeping up and clearing danger.
A series of short corners for West Hampstead eventually produced a result though, with a deflected strike finding the roof of the net just before half time.
1-0 at the break and all to play for. Southgate started brightly, with Dan McGrath and Luke Mather becoming increasingly influential. The West Hampstead keeper and West Hampstead post helped to keep efforts from Freddie Bachler, James Wood and Finn Batchelor out – on another day, those would have gone in.
As the game became more stretched and the impact of subs became more important, West Hampstead’s counter attacks started to draw Randall Hyer into action more frequently. Unfortunately, a mistake from captain Mark Thomsett led to a second goal for West Hampstead with about ten minutes left to play. Still Southgate pushed for a goal, but tired legs, injuries and the heat meant that West Hampstead added a disputed third right at the death.
A disappointing result in the end, but a scoreline that didn’t really reflect the balance of play, and a marked improvement over last week s performance give cause for optimism for the M7s.
MotM nominations were garnered for Luke Mather, but it was debutant Dan McGrath who took first place, after a fine performance of tidy play and quick passing in midfield. Special mention should go to Randall Hyer too, for stepping up to play in goal at the last minute.