Mighty M5s continue winning run and leap-frog into third In Division 4NW

0-2 Win
Match Report by Raj Saha

The fourth-placed mighty 5s travelled to the John Lyon School, for their midday showdown against Harrow M1s, who were third in the table.

The pre-match briefing in the changing room was a cosy affair. It would have been an even tighter fit if we had the original 14 players, but a combination of injury and illness meant we were down to 12 (possibly 11 if Lorenzo didn’t appear). As the casualty list included regular 5’s Skipper Jon Huddleston, young Andy Robertson donned the Captain’s armband. We also welcomed Jamie Amos for his first game back for Southgate, having originally played for the club a few seasons back. A few things had changed during Jamie’s time away from the club – there were now pre-match tactical briefing videos to watch. A few things hadn’t changed – the last minute rejigging of line-ups as team-sheets changed on Saturday morning! Captain Robbo organized the troops.

During our pre-match warm-up, we tentatively kept an eye out for Lorenzo. Even more concerning, with 15 minutes to push-back, there was no sign of the opposition or the umpires. Lorenzo, Harrow and the umpires finally appeared. The umpire requested our permission to live-stream the game on Tik-Tok. The Southgate players agreed, provided there would be more viewers than for Raj’s pre-match tactical briefing video.

Despite their shorter pre-match warm-up, Harrow had the better of the opening exchanges. Our half-backs, Lorenzo and Aryan repelled the Harrow threats down the flanks. Connor decided to relieve the pressure with his trademark aerials. The Harrow sweeper accepted Connor’s aerial challenge and aerial ping-pong for territorial advantage then followed. Raj kept his toys in his pram, despite being unfairly penalized whilst taking an aerial down at centre-back in a congested area.

Once Dan and Robbo had had enough of the ball sailing over their heads, they started to influence Southgate playing through the lines. Southgate now had a foot-hold in the game. The third of our midfield trio, Sohan, was causing problems for Harrow as he drifted between midfield and forward lines. In attack, Dave was providing a useful outlet on the left wing and Alex was willingly running in behind their back-line. Meanwhile, Captain Robbo could sense nice-guy Rich simmering under the surface, from his ongoing physical contest with the Harrow centre-back. Robbo himself was bamboozling the Harrow defence with an unorthodox mid-dribble air shot.

At the back, Raj still kept his toys in his pram despite being unfairly penalized and conceding a penalty corner, for being over physical with the Harrow centre-forward. The Harrow drag flicker stepped up. Sam in goal was equal to the challenge and wasn’t caught out by the mis-hit bobbly contact. Maybe there had been at least one viewer of the tactical briefing video.

As expected and as in the encounter earlier in the season, both sides were creating chances. Dan and Robbo continued to stifle the Harrow midfield. Our stifling duo used all their experience, as it became evident that the umpires may have left their cards at home. Southgate continued to play through the lines and won their first penalty corner. Rich was given the nod over Connor for first dibs at striking for goal from the PC. A few moments later, nice-guy Rich was simmering a little more as he was denied his shot at glory, as the ball wasn’t cleanly stopped after the injection. A lesser team may have started to fear a repeat of the meeting earlier in the season, when we converted only one of our nine PCs. However, Southgate pressure led to a second PC. Rich was relieved to still be given striking responsibility over Connor. This time Rich got his opportunity and unleashed a trademark strike. The rebound off the keeper landed to Connor who calmly finished and trotted back to the half-way line, with a smile and a wink for his fellow PC specialist, Rich.

1-0 Southgate.

Connor’s smile didn’t last long, as he soon realized he was going to have to track marauding Harrow forwards for the afternoon, as they strived to find space. The Harrow number eleven was dropping into midfield and creating most of their opportunities. Due to a combination of technique and positioning, the Harrow number seven was unable to finish an opportunity created at the back post.

At the other end, Southgate were creating their own opportunities and soon won a third PC. Connor respectfully let Rich have another crack. And crack he did, as the ball shuddered into the back-board and back out again.

2-0 Southgate. Half-time.

During the break, Captain Robbo encouraged nice-guy Rich to keep his cool, in his battle with their centre-back. Dave shared some advice about how to influence the umpires’ judgment, in relation to infringements during aerial ping-pong. Dan imparted words of wisdom about playing for territory, during the first ten minutes of the second half. In true 5s style, as the second half commenced, we ignored Dan’s wise words and invited pressure on ourselves in our own half. However we had Lorenzo, who continued to thwart the Harrow attacks down our left. Aryan kept us compact through the middle, by tucking in from right-back. Meanwhile, Dave was relieving the pressure by providing an outlet on the left and astutely switching the play out to our right, via the middle as we gained territory. Jamie was providing an outlet on the right and fitted seamlessly into the team alongside players, whom he hadn’t played with before. Alex was delivering his most mature performance of the season, by curbing his natural attacking game and taking on defensive responsibilities.

At the back, Connor once again decided to relieve the pressure. He challenged the Harrow sweeper to a second round of aerial ping-pong, to see who had the biggest bomb. As one of the Harrow bombs was sent into our D, Raj planted himself, called and took the ball out of the air with his stick, with Harrow players in touching distance of him. Another PC to Harrow! The PC was delayed as Skipper Robbo and the Southgate players had a discussion with the umpire, about his interpretation of aerial regulations. The umpires conferred. Meanwhile, Raj was behind the goal, ensuring his toys were still firmly in his pram. The PC decision stood. From the resultant PC, Connor took no chances and deflected the ensuing shot wide. Harrow continued to create chances and missed another opportunity at the back post. The Harrow centre-back was now diverting his wrath from nice-guy Rich towards his own striker. Harrow were also kept at bay by Sam in goal, who made an excellent diving save from a PC.

As he did in the first half, Dan started to exert his influence on the team, by picking the ball up from the defence and coaxing us forwards. Sohan was dropping deeper and starting our counter attacks as we won turnover. We continued to create openings. Meanwhile at the back, Raj was starting to combust, as both our half-backs simultaneously entered the opposition circle during a foray forward. Captain Robbo took a slightly more measured approach, whilst reminding the afore-mentioned marauding half-backs of Raj’s half-time words about game management whilst being 2-0 up.

Following on from this, Southgate solidified their defence and bravely put their bodies on the line in their quest for a clean sheet, as Connor wore one to his thumb.

The final whistle! A win, a clean sheet, and leap-frog the opposition into third!

As the Southgate players jubilantly strided off, Connor made his way more slowly off the pitch, having energetically tracked the Harrow forwards all game. An out-of-breath Connor then offered up his scientific summary of the game; “That is one of the most moveability 5’s games I’ve played in!”

Being a school venue, there was no bar, so the Harrow players had kindly bought some baguettes, cheeses, hams, sausage rolls, swiss rolls and squash, for a good old-fashioned post-match buffet.

After the buffet, all that was left was to share the news of our victory with ecstatic Skipper Jon and for a third of our team to divert home via a more traditional post-match venue, for some non-squash refreshment!

Final score 0-2 win.
MoM: Sam for a solid performance, including excellent saves to keep a clean sheet

DoD: Raj for following Dave’s half-time advice about how to win aerial decisions from the umpires. (One final dastardly attempt by his team-mates to get Raj to throw his toys out of his pram.)

Match report by Raj Saha.