Southgate 4As 3 – 2 St Albans 5s
Match Report : Jon Huddleston
This was one of those games that just leaves a big smile on your face and reminds you why hockey is such a great sport. The 4As picked themselves up from the frustration of a narrow defeat last week and took their chances as they dominated a decent St Alban’s team at Oaklands.
The first half was a to and fro affair, with Gate snatching an early lead when Os Bate added a clinical finish to a lovely move down the right wing. Frustratingly though St Alban’s bounced straight back and following some cute passing in the D, a shot snuck into the corner of the goal. Unfazed, the 4As pushed on and began to create chances. From a well-earned short, Alastair Whatley struck a lovely clean shot and, after a little pause while the excellent umpires decided on the height of the finish, the goal was awarded. Gate could then have had a couple more but a couple of outstanding saves from the opposition keeper kept the game tight and Gate’s profligacy was punished when an unfortunate deflection from a St Alban’s short corner fell favourably to their centre forward to equalise.
Southgate regrouped at the break, knowing they were the superior team and determined not to make a slow start after the experience of last week. What followed was a sensational 35 minutes of hockey as Southgate dominated the exchanges and rained shots and pressure on the opposition goal. Everyone, even the ever goal shy captain, put shots on target but all were repelled until a lovely break down the right from David James and some lovely interchange with the forwards allowed Whatley to finish things off.
Buoyed by regaining the lead, 4As settled into a nice rhythm, shut the game down, and deservedly held on for an excellent early season win.
What made this victory so satisfying was the superb all-round performance.
In Goal, Nigel Dixon was outstanding, intervening with authority when necessary to hold firm on the rare occasions his goal was threatened. The defence was mature and solid, with the ever reliable old guard of James Rushton and Jon Huddleston superbly supported by the outstanding David James and Sajiv Saha, who even risked his nose for the cause. The two younger players were so mature and deft in their decisions and touches that this felt like it could be a settled defence for the whole season. Crucially this week, the Gate midfield bossed the game. Andy Robertson was sensational in dictating the play, and with Os and David Wolffe adding wonderful guile and skill. St Albans simply couldn’t get a foothold in the match. We were delighted to welcome Fergus Comrie for his debut in the 4As and he showed some excellent touches in support of the midfield challenge.
But the plaudits in this match deservedly went to the attack, who were universally excellent. Alongside Alastair, Raj Saha ran hard and directly at the defence, causing problem after problem, Nayan Bhundia was a permanent threat on the right, regularly getting in behind the tiring defence, and Alex Hyer had a storming match, at times simply untouchable as he created chance after chance.
So as I said at the start, a fantastic day all round. Alastair deservedly got man of the match for his clinical finishing and incredible workrate in both defence and attack with a number of votes too for Andy, Alex, Nigel and Sajiv. It was a day when anyone could have won the award. Huge thanks too for our incredible team of supporters on the sidelines. They made themselves heard and roared the team on to their success.
Next week brings the challenge of Letchworth, who were one of last season’s stronger teams. However, Gate will go into the match with confidence and ambition as we seek to maintain our momentum. The smile will I am sure last all week!