No take-off at Heathrow for the M5 as they get unstuck on the runway to Ashford

M5 vs Ashford M2

0-2 Draw

MOM: Rory Willmott

Southgate M5 drew the second half yet crucially lost the first half despite some stalwart resistance and a MOM winning performance from Rory Willmott. The recently promoted team now face a battle to retain their status as a London Division 4 North West side.

Ashford sits almost squarely on Heathrow’s declined bid for it’s sixth runway and as  such enjoys unparalleled access for plane spotters, yet for the hardy Southgate support (thanks Raj) there was perhaps more to cheer in the air than on the ground as under the grey January skies and frequent, percussive aircraft flyovers the M5 struggled to make Ashford sweat.

The team was this week reinforced by Scott Ellis (brother of Mark/Webby) and from a fine Rotherham dynasty of hockey players forged in the fires of 90’s northern hockey which we suggested to Scott would make him a natural early adopter of the unique brand of hockey played by the M5’s.

Ashford were vanquished in late September in a 5-1 victory at the Gate aided by 4 PC goals converted from just 5 awarded PC’s. Ivan Stark and Connor Wright the sorcerers responsible for such wizardry top D. Alas neither were playing on Saturday.

Ashford to their credit played well and set off with the energy and zeal of a Cuckoo in April presenting as a tautly drilled group who pressed very high and encouraged some quick turnovers from our 16 hit outs and they dominated the first fifteen minutes spent largely with Southgate on the defensive.

Scott Ellis heroically stepping up to the central midfield role did well but struggled at times with the basic laws of the game. Matt Mitchel the trenchant 5’s man, ‘he with the long barrier’ presented a gristled exterior borne of either a late night or a crippling dose of flu and Rory Willmott was his usual encouraging self charming the opposition with his quiet man persona.

Sajiv Saha returned for his 2nd 5’s cap following on from a superb debut last weekend against Osterley and Joe Soper was back in the midfield mix sporting a fine new Aussie inspired hair cut which saw resultant ribald humour from his fellow man.

The 5’s hair cuts possibly present better entertainment than reports on our hockey for those first fifteen minutes which saw two goals pass by the legendary John Dann in the Southgate goal. Although a wall for much of the game with some fine saves including a clean sheet second half, there was little we could do on the two that got away.

Slowly the 5’s came back into the game and for the final 10 minutes of the 2nd half gained some control back and began to dominate possession. The first PC was won care of Joe Soper finding a nice Ashford shaped foot at the top of the D, yet the ball sizzled past the left post without troubling the Ashford keeper. Another PC followed and this one went the other way seeking acquaintance with the nearby fence.

Vice Captain Nayan Bhundia was back with us and pressed well forcing some neat turnovers and looked dangerous from his right wing carving a few balls through to the P spot, meanwhile Scott Ellis was rolling out the mix tapes and sending the crash ball straight in from the long corner seeking a canny deflection before alas being reacquainted with the revised rule book. Moments later he managed it again on more legally sound footing and just missed connecting with another well placed 5’s debutante in the form of Zac Mistry who was working hard running the lines up top.

Dhillon Shukla has already surprised everyone after rising late from an enjoyable Friday night by making it on time and then settling himself nicely in midfield and put in a huge shift attempting to connect between our lines despite intense pressure from Ashford.

As for the game it was close but no cigar until tea time and at half time the team jogged it in for a bit of huddle at 0-2 down but looking stronger with every passing minute of play. Captain Dave Richardson issued some encouragement and a decisive shift to a half court press, Rory was incredibly positive and Jon Dann encouraged everyone to get stuck in. The game was on.

The Ashford supporters soon arrived in their multitudes obviously hearing news of an end to end affair in Heathrow which sounds like something Graham Green would have written. He might have made more of it than we did. Raj representing the Southgate support was quite quiet on the sidelines but we were certain he was feeling supportive all the same. Despite the good half time chat we immediately gave away a PC which Jon Dann saved neatly and we ran it up the pitch but gave it away and then we all ran back the other way and so it followed that there followed much ado about nothing with plenty of activity to little end and certainly no Southgate goals, but also no Ashford goals. Which wasn’t very thrilling for home, away or even neutral supporters. Yet it was half a point for drawing the second half which is better than nothing.

Highlights included an Ashford player falling over in spectacular style to the delighted cheers of his home crowd (biggest cheer of game as it turned out), captain Dave won a nice PC, Duncan Trathen was deeply industrious and got us out of some scrapes and through it all Rory Willmott was playing rather well keeping the Ashford threat at bay and earning his first MOM award.

Hats off went to Arun Solanki who was back in the side after a week in the 4A sunshine and worked tirelessly and continued to inspire 5’s hearts to hold out a little longer. Mat Mitchel’s heart however was done for the day as the flu set in, but he stayed and cheered on the team despite looking a little green round the gils.

The final whistle blew, there were some cheers and hands were shaken. A photo was suggested for the newsletter which absolutely didn’t go down like a spot of brandy on a may morning and proved divisive – yet after some cajoling everyone stood and some snarled and some smiled and some simmered for the camera before retiring for a cold shower and a beer. Yet thank heavens we have this moment recorded for posterity.

It has in truth been a tough few weeks on the field for the 5’s with some tight results not quite heading in the right direction, yet there are more green-shoots in the grasslands than the results suggest and some strong performances shining through. This weekend the team returns home and looks to seek some sweet revenge on Chiswick M3’s who came out the eventual winners when last we met in October. 3 points for the Mighty 5s on Saturday and that sweet taste of victory will set us up well for the final run in.