Report by Mark Thomsett.
The M7s went into this fixture on the back of a three-match unbeaten run, and Ealing M1s came to Southgate knowing that a victory would move them top of the table.
Southgate started well, with Jon Dann in goal marshalling the experienced Andy Richardson, Mark Mather and Brian Cade in front of him in defence, and Michiel Van Soest, Laurence Whyatt, Simon Holmes and Antony Spencer matching the strong Ealing midfield. Clear chances were proving hard to come by though, with an Ealing defence and energetic midfield giving no Southgate players any time on the ball.
From a scrappy stalemate, Southgate produced the one real moment of quality in the match – Luke Mather and Tom Van Soest moving the ball swiftly down the right, with the latter serving up the opportunity for James Wood to score at the back post. It was an example of the kind of slick, passing hockey that the M7s have been trying to play all season – all they had to do now was keep it up for the rest of the match.
Ealing’s midfield started to scrap harder and they managed to find an equalizer that their tenacity probably deserved: 1-1. Southgate were giving as good as they got, though, and maybe a little too much – some agricultural tackles saw a quick flurry of cards, and Southgate had to reset with Freddie Bachler and James Lockheart going above and beyond, putting in a hard shift to cover the gaps left by the sin-bins.
Somewhat against the run of play, Ealing took the lead, a slightly mis-hit reaction shot after the ball dropped and spun like a Shane Warne delivery, wrong-footing everyone. 2-1, and the response from Southgate was positive, if a little frantic. Both sides got a little desperate at the end, and Ealing were hanging on for the final 10 minutes, but they managed to prevent Southgate from really working their keeper.
Given their efforts, Southgate will probably feel that a draw would have been a fair result, but Ealing showed why they warranted their place at the top of the league with their clinical finishing and hard pressing all over the pitch.
MotM was Luke Mather at right back, for another display of solid tackling and attacking play.