RESULT : Win 1-0 vs Reading
Match Report : Alastair Whatley
Photo Credits : Helen Ritchie Photogrpahy
It would be entirely disingenuous to pitch the Reading vs Southgate match on Saturday evening as a David vs Goliath fixture. But I’ll give it a good go all the same. Certainly as our visiting spectators (the Murphy family) arrived they did comment that our dugout looked remarkably spartan compared to that of Reading who came complete with managers, coaches, physios and a team doctor as well as a full squad of 16. By push back Southgate could only muster a stand in manager in the form of club sec Alastair Whatley and just two subs on the bench come PB.
What is more Reading are sitting top of the league whilst Southgate have been sitting uncomfortably in the lower reaches. And so the Reading crowds massed confidently around their Sonning based water pitch to cheer their team to what must have looked like an easy victory.
Yet Reading coach Danny Newcombe, a former Gate coach, would have learnt well to never underestimate Southagte. As the pre match music blasted around the four corners of the pitch the beautiful day turned with an orange sky into a cold night as the players walked out onto the pitch. Gate in Red & Black colours and Reading in their cold chilly blues home kit.
The whistle went and Gate immediately sprang to life dominating the opening minutes with fast fluid passing and building sustained pressure into Reading territory. Thaddeus Rivett and Iain Gordon have become our solid centre back pairing in recent weeks and despite the odd wayward aerial formed a an indomitable wall for much of the game with some superb distribution. Matt Allister was a menace to the Reading defence from the get go and worked overtime to make a nuisance of himself.
8 minutes in Rob Gill forced his way into the Reading D after a fine baseline carry and managed Gate’s first shot on target although safely put away by the Reading keeper. Reading shortly countered looking dangerous for the first time as they blasted down the left and moved the ball around our defensive lines leaving Ollie Wickens in goal for Gate facing a dangerous 1 on 1 . The Southgate support audibly groaned at the goal against the run of play, yet the umpires knew better and quickly overturned the goal for being struck with the players back stick. 0-0 it remained.
A military bugle soon sounded the arrival of the cavalry, who galloped straight from their 3hr+ journey onto the pitch, in the form of Rob Schilling and 1’s debutante Todd Lomas who had both endured nightmare traffic en route from Southgate. This arrival clearly ignited Harry Haynes who charged into the Reading D and collared a ball home into the right corner- only for the whistle to disallow it for an earlier infraction.
End of a breathless first quarter and it was 0-0- but to the surprise of the Reading crowd (less so the Southgate support duo) the Southgate boys were the dominant team.
So it remained into the second quarter as Charles Hamilton who has been playing with increasing confidence and verve in recent weeks launched a trademark chuck and run driving hard deep behind Reading lines and into the D. Play broke down shortly after as captain John Sterlini left the Reading defence on their heels as he swam into the D like a Botticelli swan and reverse hit a ball at devastating velocity towards the top left corner forcing an outstanding save from their keeper.
All the while our midfield were putting in a massive shift- Matt Anderson, Guilio Ferrini, Sam Weissen, John Sterlini and Rob Schilling simply worked the overtime shift to maintain control of the game and keep the Reading attack dogs out of the game. The whistle below and the game remained poised at 0-0 the feeling in the Gate dugout was that the boys could pull of something special. Coach Thaddeus brought the team in for a half time huddle and within 10 minutes the game was back on.
Reading came hard at us throughout the 3rd quarter and Gate fell back to some epic defending, Ollie Wickens being tested on a few occasions whilst Christy Walkin and Rob Gill ran the lines attempting to get the ball back up to our forward lines.
Southgate forced the first PC of the game which saw a well worked routine fall inches wide of the first goal of the game. Reading countered and forced their own PC which Ollie deftly swatted away, water off a ducks back. So Southgate continued to work but Reading pressed hard and sustained the pressure until the end of a tough quarter but Gate had stood firm and went into the final minutes still at 0-0.
The remaining 17.5 minutes took place in a whirlwind. With 62 minutes on the clock a fine move left Southgate attacking outmanning the Reading defenders and with Daman Bansal, John Sterlini and finally Rob Schilling on the end to put away a massive Southgate goal that had the dugout and away supporters cheering at volume. 1-0. 8 minutes to play. Could the boys hold on?
Reading immediately took off their keeper and all of a sudden Southgate were up against it, 4 successive Reading PC’s were run down, saved, blocked, stopped, kicked and salvaged in all manner of ways by a dogged, belligerent defensive effort. The clock ran down, Gate were holding firm, the crowd was tense in the cold night air as in the final seconds of the game Reading broke into our D and forced a final PC of the match. The Gate defence broke off their lines at pace and the Reading flicker buckled under the intense Gate pressure and the look of victory in Thaddeus’ eye. The ball went wide of the right post. The whistle went. Victory was ours. Southgate cheers resounded around Reading and echoed up the Thames.
Congratulations to the players who secure National League Div 1 hockey next year with the win and to Thaddeus who put in a huge performance on and off the pitch as player/coach. Thanks to Tom and Neil Murphy for coming down to lend their Southgate vocal stylings and our hosts Reading for being great sports and offering some super post match hospitality.
This week the boys go again against Brighton at home. Do come down and support them.