The M7s made the journey across to West London for their first match in the London League, knowing that the opposition were likely to be stronger than those they’d been facing in the East League in previous seasons.
A warm sunny day greeted the team, and the M7s knew that it would be tough going in the heat against an Osterley side with four subs and plenty of stick skills.
The first half was a keenly fought battle, with Chris Rouse, Michiel Van Soest and Randall Hyer starting brightly and controlling the midfield, shifting the ball on to Freddie Bachler, Tom Van Soest, James Wood and Finn Batchelor up front, who were ably matched by their Osterley counterparts – experience in defence just about holding off the youth and pace of the Southgate attack.
Across the back, Giles Weblin, Leon Flack, Neil Murphy and Mark Thomsett kept the Osterley forwards largely at bay, but there were signs that their stick skills and pace would draw goalkeeper Neil Commons into action soon.
And so it proved: after a series of close calls, a scrappy, bobbly goal was pushed over the Southgate line to make it 1-0 to Osterley. Perhaps against the run of play, but the warnings had been there.
Southgate came back though, dominating possession and space, and following a slick move down the right, James Wood tucked away a fine goal on the reverse from the edge of the D. 1-1 at half time, and anyone’s game.
The second half, unfortunately, didn’t go to plan. Osterley switched to something like a 6-0-4 formation and, content to sit deep and soak up the pressure, started almost exclusively employing crash balls from the back. Pushing their front four right up against the Southgate defence, and helped by the bobbly pitch, it didn’t take long before Osterley were running at the Southgate back line at pace. Heat, age and fitness started to take their toll, and despite Neil Commons’ heroics in goal, the Osterley score inevitably started to rack up. 7-1 the final tally, which might not have reflected the balance of play across the whole match, but it did highlight the level of clinical hockey that will be required from the M7s this season.
MotM was goalkeeper Neil Commons, with several nominations for Freddie Bachler (in particular for his stint in midfield), James Wood and Tom Van Soest, who all put in excellent displays in a tough match.