In a thrilling display of skill, strategy, and sheer determination, two formidable teams clashed in West London on Saturday. The crowd (all 4 of them) were treated to an unforgettable spectacle as Southgate squared off against PHC Chiswick in a high-stakes battle to open the season that kept spectators on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
With a squad of talented individuals, Southgate knew that the result ought to end well…but with as the Men’s 2s found out, you can never be too sure. From the start of the warmup, reminders of the plan for a ‘Fast start’ bounced around the players and the intensity increased up until they gathered in the huddle before the game. At this point, all ego’s were shed, the team was one and Southgate were ready to destroy the men wearing blue and yellow.
The match kicked off with a tremendous roar from the crowd, which was then realised to be just the umpires border collie who was chained to the fence at the halfway line (who barked for the first 65 minutes of the game), setting the tone for an electrifying encounter. From the first whistle, Southgate dominated in a controlled but energetic manner. The decision for Chiswick to set a zonal press in the first game of the season when their players clearly weren’t too familiar with it was music to Coach Todd’s eyes, who is passionately coaching the 3s this season until he returns from injury. The midfield battle was fierce, they mistakenly gave space for the Southgate midfield of Sachin, Lucca and Jez to receive turn and advance – which enabled the front three of Westy (Andrew not Dan), Lum (Chau not Richmond) and Kabir (there’s only one Kabir) to explode into the spaces near far wide.
After a dogged 10 minutes, Southgate drew first blood with a ferocious attack that ended with a goal line scramble that Lum, on his return to hockey, slotted in. At this sniff of victory, the troops stayed ‘on message’ and kept the proverbial foot on the neck of Chiswick. With nearly all possession in Southgate’s favour, the play was incredibly one sided, with Rookes, Lucas and Ivan at full back commanding the high transfer and Biggins and Joshim blasting up and down the wings akin to Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold circa ‘17/18.
The team wasn’t perfect of course. There were teething issues with the press, but they were shortly sorted with some on-pitch words from our offensive coordinator Westy and a discussion between Captain/Quarterback Lucca and Coach Todd on the sidelines. Shortly after the first goal, on his Southgate Debut, Sachin Goyal showed his mettle and hit the cleanest back foot shot from the shoulder of the D to make it 2-0.
As they went into the team talk at halftime, spirits were high, drinks were taken on board and little sweeties were gobbled. The plan was to take a breather, get collected and then restart the half with the same if not more ferocity of the first; the 2 goals already scored were just the start! But as Mike Tyson said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”…
The left hook in question came from the umpires. 10 minutes into the 2nd half, an aerial was thrown from Chiswick deep defence to relieve pressure and fell to Biggins at left back to deftly touch down. As the ball was knee height of his take down, a Chiswick player (never 5) came, stole it and counter attacked, leading to a 3-1 situation with Akshay in goal who to this point had been tested rarely but never showed signs of weakness. Unfortunately for Southgate, the ball went in to make it 2-1. This triggered Chiswick to state a comeback and they started to play some decent-ish hockey. With a slight lull in focus, Southgate let them have a few circle penetrations and the game started to look 2 sided.
The turning point for Chiswick and little did they know, Southgate too – was when Joshim had the ball stolen from him outside the Southgate D the game played and with that Chiswick stole the advantage and scored much to the chagrin of the assembled Southgate ranks.
If there was any point in any match where it seemed the Southgate players could lose their icy cool, it was this point for Southgate. However they returned to the relentless pressure and absolute dominance of the first half, and peppered Chiswick with shot after shot and plenty short corners. Westy had a hat-trick of shots that were saved, Lucas had a few drag-flicks and Jez almost scored a wonder goal, but it just kissed the top corner of the post to go over the bar. The tides finally turned when, with lightning-fast passes and slick stick work, Southgate caught Chiswick off guard. Adam Shiret beat 3 players to get out of their press, released Jez who carried for 40 yards, who then put through Westy who had sprinted the length of the pitch to get ahead. Westy calmly went 1-1 with the keeper, showed wide then slotted the ball in the goal to regain the lead for the last 10 minutes.
In the dying minutes of the match, Chiswick threw everything they had at Southgate in a desperate bid to equalise. However, all they had was not enough. The final whistle signalled the end of an enthralling hockey battle. Southgate emerged victorious with a 3-2 win over Chiswick. Although the scoreline was not so reflective of the dominant display, the mood in the Southgate camp was electric. A special shoutout to the Southgate debutants, Sachin Goyal and Jez Donaghue, who did a real service to the Southgate badge that day.
This match will be remembered as a testament to the skill, determination, and passion that will define the 3s this season. As the team left the field, they did so without knowing that they had just become, points wise, the Best Men’s Team at Southgate HC this Season. #UpThe3s #PromotionSeason
DoD: Biggins & Akshay