Report by Chris Rouse

A crisp clear Saturday morn turned to a rather sweltering affair, as the sun rose and burnt away the recent spell of unseasonably cold weather. Turning into ‘Old Loughts’ car park the searing blue pitch shimmered in the sun, like the crystal clear waters of a summer Mediterranean holiday sea. The team taking to the pitch truly embodied the tankard spirit with a passion and breadth of experience spanning several generations. Chris Gerrard made a very welcome return to the front line with Pom, whose persistent hassling and dogged runs caused grief for the OL’s backline from the off. They were joined up front by Brian Woolcott, Chris James and James Keen; all causing problems for the OL’s defence. Simon Holmes was the linchpin at CM, distributing the ball to Fergus Comrie at LM; (who made numerous dashing runs and some impressive ball traps and intercepts) and Nayan Bhundia at RM, (who made excellent headway down the right), always available as an outlet from the back, making numerous telling intercepts and thwarting several OLs attacks. 

Mark Thomsett’s aggressive defence stopped many an incursion into the team’s danger zone, pressing forward for multiple intercepts and disrupting OL’s attackers on the ball so that they fizzled out, like damp fireworks flopping onto wet grass, unable to fire cannon-like shots at Nigel Dixon in goal. 

Nigel was called upon on a number of occasions. The odd dreaded bobbling ball eluding our defence, and a defensive hesitation in clearing the ball, Nigel saved the day. Alex Holmes and David James both had excellent games and earned nominations for MOM. David for excellent ball control, calmness, pressing in attack and robust in defence at RB. Alex Holmes, for always making himself available, putting in some critical tackles and excellent ball distribution at LB. 

The game was a well balanced affair, it’s probably fair to say Southgate had the greater number of opportunities, Chris Rouse in a utility role had a shot from the top right of the D tipped around the  RH post and James Keen unleashed a blazing shot that flew over the cross bar and another, deftly lifted only for the keeper to make an excellent save. 

The team had a lot of success down the right hand side, Brian launched a shot at a rocket-like ball that passed across the D, destined for the top corner, alas, this time it was not to be. As the game progressed, Southgate continued to press OLs, and they were starting to feel the strain. It felt only a matter of time before a goal would follow. It was on one of Southgate’s more expansive excursions into the Oppo’s half that an interception was made and the dreaded long ball whistled past the rushing Southgate attack. A heart in mouth moment that thankfully did not end with the ball in the back of the net. 

Simon Holmes who lead the team, and dominated the midfield, and the young defenders Alex and David, all earned well deserved MOM nominations. MOM though went to Antony Spencer, who was rock solid at sweeper. Calling the shots but more importantly always in the right place at the right time, with precision tackles and then releasing the ball turning defence into attack. 

The result was a 0 : 0 draw. I suspect OL’s will be very happy with that result but they could have easily nicked it in the closing moments, so there weren’t too many downhearted faces at the final whistle. A great run out for the team who put everything into the game – bring on the rematch next week!