Match Report by Mark Thomsett
The M7s came into this match looking for their first victory of the season, after a series of encouraging, but tight losses in recent weeks. The visitors were Richmond Redoubtables, sitting top of the table, with maximum points so far, and so the M7s knew that they were going to have to play better than at any point this season to get anything from this match.
A strong M7s team built around a quality midfield of Simon Bate, Simon Holmes, Laurence Whyatt and anchored by Ethan Mahendran grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck right from the start, and never really let go. The latter, in particular, breaking up play and setting other runners free in a dominant performance.
The forward line of James Lockheart, James Wood, Freddie Bachler and Amar Johal looked as sharp and as dynamic as they have all season, with lots of unselfish running creating space for others around them.
Richmond were being smothered, allowing Randall Hyer, Finn Batchelor and Aiden Commons lots of freedom to contribute from right and left back positions.
And that left Neil Murphy, Mark Thomsett and Neil Commons to sweep up and direct play from central defence and in goal on the rare occasions that Richmond broke through.
Richmond didn’t seem to know how to cope, and soon found themselves behind – Laurence Whyatt sliding in at the back post to convert a fine Simon Bate centre. And then again, when Simon Bate cracked a goal into the bottom corner from the top of the D, giving the goal keeper no chance, and setting off recriminations from a Richmond side who hadn’t fallen behind all season.
A little overconfidence started to creep in from Southgate, and Richmond managed to pull one goal back from a swift counterattack that led to the defence being outnumbered with little chance. 2-1 to Southgate at the end of a half that had seen the M7s play their best hockey of the season so far, but with a warning that demonstrated that they would need to stay focused throughout the second half to close the match out.
Richmond changed things up in the second half, close double marking Ethan Mahendran to try and stifle the driver of much of the M7s attacks. No problem for Mahendran though – he still broke up the play, but started to shift the ball on earlier to teammates who were now in more space as a result.
Simon Bate, Simon Holmes and Laurance Whyatt continued to drive into the heart of n increasingly stretched and rattled Richmond team, and extended the lead through Laurence Whyatt after a slightly scrappy bit of ping-pong in the Richmond D.
Richmond struck back again to close the deficit to one goal with a finely struck effort from a short corner, but Southgate kept plugging away, knowing that a two-goal cushion was needed heading into the final ten minutes.
It was end to end stuff in front of a growing and vocal crowd, and they erupted when Freddie Bachler popped up at the back post to smartly flick the ball into the Richmond goal. 4-2 and a not undeserved scoreline at all.
There was still time for another Richmond goal, a speculative shot deflecting unluckily off Mark Thomsett’s stick into the bottom corner, meaning that Southgate had to dig deep for the final couple of minutes.
When the final whistle came, heralding a 4-3 win, there was relief at the first victory of the season, but also satisfaction at a performance that exceeded any so far this year. The whole squad put in their finest display in a Southgate shirt, full of hard work, selfless running and calm heads.
Ethan Mahendran took the honours as Man Of The Match for a performance of grit, energy and control, and the M7s head into the Christmas run-in full of confidence and seeing progress being made.