Result : WIN 4 -1 vs Canterbury
Match Report : Alastair Whatley
Polo Farm sits just outside the ancient walls of Canterbury city centre. A long two mile climb from there awaits to the hallowed turf of Canterbury Hockey Club which on Saturday sat ablaze in the red twilight of the October evening. The legendary Canterbury townsfolk gathered rows deep along the whole of the clubhouse side of the pitch in anticipation of a vaunted Southgate scalping.
Kwan Browne, Huw Stevens, Andy and Sarah Richardson not to mention goal scoring machine Teague Marcano are all alumnae from Polo Farm and their return in Southgate colours made for a must see event under the lights as both sides fought for dominance in the competitive Divison 1 south league of the National League.
Some hardy Southgate support had come to do battle with the Canterbury voices that had begun to assert themselves from the moment the game pushed back. From the whistle the ball started firing around the pitch and precision aerial balls began peeling like reconnaissance arrows into respective opposition territories. Both sides rattled their sabres and showed their arsenals in displays of strength much enjoyed by the terraces.
Southgate captain John Sterlini within 4 minutes had a fine ball thrust across with fire from the right channel, yet for once Teague Marcano on the receiving end was unable to convert an admittedly challenging chance. In reply Canterbury attempted to show that whatever Southgate could do they could do better, but it turned out they couldn’t quite and the hard ball in was left to steamroller into the hoardings.
Guilo Ferrini broke the deadlock helped along with some fine work in the middle by Karan Sofat who continues to impress, Guilio, Matt Alister and Charles Hamilton rucked their bodies by the P spot and carved enough space for Ferrini to leather the ball past Canterbury keeper Chris Rae’s pads and hard onto the backboard. 1-0 and Southgate had their noses in front.
Penalty Corners started coming thick and fast at both ends, Charles Hamilton and Robbie Gill running down successive Canterbury shorts like Bruce Willis on a night out whilst at the other end with Gate’s first PC, Teague sent the ball to Chris Rae’s left but his legendary radar caught the ball on his outstretched stick keeping the score line at 1-0.
Into Q2 and Canterbury were one again frustrated at another PC thanks to the Hamilton/Gill double act and moments later Gate had replied with their second PC of the game, again well saved but this time picked up and clinically finished past the Canterbury goal by Charles Hamilton. 2-0.
More PC’s followed in a febrile frenetic few moments of play. Sam Weissen heroically saved a Tom Bean flick from the post but was deemed to have impeded the ball on its route to goal and Bean stood up to convert the flick past Ollie Wickens in the Gate goalmouth. Wickens made a string of gymnastic saves to keep Canterbury shy of parity as the intensity amped up yet further into the half time whistle. 2-1 and Southgate had the upper hand.
The third quarter saw the tide turn fully in the direction of Kwan’s men and Southgate’s superior fitness started showing and ebbing away at the Canterbury confidence which saw frustrations and ill disciple creep into their game and from which the boys in red capitalised at every turn. Teague’s tussles with the defence continued but increasingly he was running rings around his men, whilst Jack Middleton, Guilio Ferrini and Rob Schilling started expressing themselves with creativity in the middle of the pitch, searching probing balls from Kwan and Robbie who started linking play with their forward lines and soon the dam burst. A flick was awarded and Kwan stepped forwards, a Canterbury legend now returned in red and black, yet he looked cool and with a studied ease converted a flick with such relish it silenced the crowd as the ball collided with the netting like a rare moth to a flame. 3-1
Then followed a moment of rare brilliance, a goal for the ages and which words may pale to record. Trinidad and Tobago international Teague Marcano turned over the ball on the left just outside the Canterbury 23, he took the ball wide and eliminated two defenders in quick succession in a fiery show of skills and dexterity before dancing into the D on the quickstep double, the ball, seemingly at the edge of mortal control. Chris Rae in his yellow smock rushed out to meet the incoming threat and dived wide expecting Teague to find space behind him, yet Teague had other ideas and with a nonchalant composure worthy of Gasgoine at Euro ‘96 simply lifted the ball up and over and into the goal with the finest of casual finishes which saw the pitch erupt and the lone Gate supporters break into evening song and even the Canterbury masses grudgingly conceded that they had witnessed something rather special. The team celebrated then went back to work. 4-1
Q4 saw Southgate dominant and goals seemed never far away, the team constantly threatening the Canterbury lines with flare and seeming ease. Eventually Dan West was left with a 1-1 which led to a smarting shot from top D which clattered into the Canterbury goal sealing the game in style. The final whistle came none to soon for the home supporters who had, like their team, given their all from the sidelines. Yet it wasn’t enough for a side in the rudest vein of form. The team play like devils possessed with a saintly aura and a budding belief in themselves and their ability to impose themselves on this league.