M5 vs Osterley M1
Goals: Akshay Palaniappan, Conor Wright
Southgate Mens 5’s dug out draw in torrential rain, although rued a chance to convert a much needed 3 points away at Osterley.
The omens were not good on arrival as Southgate weathered the trans-London travel experience to reach Osterley in the hinter lands of West London. There was no opposition and the pitch looked decidedly unsuited to hockey. Also at least one of our players was lost somewhere on the Elizabeth line.
Some late injuries meant we had had to draft in an urgent reinforcement. Despite urgent pleas at the Clubhouse back in Trent Park only one man put himself forward for the big trip West. The hope was our replacement would bring experience, nouse, guile and the skills of Bandurak. The reality was we inherited Akshay- who is brilliant on every level- with his pads on in goal. Outfield he was making his Southgate league debut and made himself a shoe in for MOM just for volunteering.
Half an hour late and a bit more besides and with half the pitch unlit in the gloomy ever darkening skies (it was 4:30pm+) the game pushed back and so began what could well be become a game that goes down in 5’s lore. Probably for all the wrong reasons.
In terms of the hockey there were moments when we played pretty well, the ball moved nicely with Kabir Bowry in midfield matching the famous hands of the oppo players who showed much flair on the ball but little off it as Kabir found space for James Marriot and Dave Richardson up top who in turn began creating chances and plenty of PC’s which alas didn’t quite materialise into actual PC’s. Rather becoming 16 yard hits out to Osterley who took to clubbing the ball down field with alacrity.
In defence Mat Mitchel, Arun Solanki and Rory Willmott dug in and with the aid of big Jon Dann puling off some solid saves in the half light together becoming a wall around which the attaching forces of the oppo could not breach.
All the while there was a whirling dervish up front, running like the wind with his stick held on one hand at all times. That dervish was of course our goal keeping hero Akshay who pioneered an outfield playing style all of his own, and after a bit of a rocky start began, increasingly, pulling off runs, dribbles and some outrageous one handed reverse crosses into the D.
Even more unbelievably at one point he careered into the D and with a mighty swing and on his first touch hammered the ball into the bottom right corner leaving the Osterley keeper completely wrong footed and Southgate 1-0 up.
There followed a very fine celebration and everyone was very happy about it. Apart from Osterley.
Half time came at 1-0 and Southgate players were going well, Rory Willmott passionately advocated a passing game at half time and suggesting with his customary well oiled diplomacy that the forwards (not including Akshay) might want to actually score some goals and Dave Richardson encouraged the team to continue the work rate as he reminded us the game was far from over. He proved strangely prescient on this point.
Conor Wright was a welcome addition back in the 5’s and he stood up on the first awarded PC of the game soon after the restart and like a shower on a sunny day teased his drag flick head height past the Osterley defensive lines. 2-0 and everyone was happy again.
Yet within 60 seconds in true fives style the team exhaled as if having consumed a large festive meal and in that exhale Osterley simple picked through our defence and smacked a ball past Jon between the Southgate sticks and got the home side back into the game. 2-1.
It would not be unfair to say that the game had developed a bit of an edge by now, it was quite clear the umpires were struggling to see in the now pretty dark half of the pitch into which Gate were attacking, a thankless task for the umpires and it turned out at times for the Southgate attackers who were working hard to no avail. A nicely worked sequence of play saw skipper Dave Richardson slip the ball right to Alastair Whatley who slapped the ball hard and low into the bottom left corner only to met with the agile Osterley keepers stick who just managed to fend the ball away thus seeing the game off at 3-1. Instead it remained 2-1…and not for much longer.
Some Southgate legs were getting tired which meant that alas the teams worst defender, Alastair Whatley ended up in the wrong D and made some wrong decisions leaving a man free top D who scuffed a shot like the worst sort of hack golfer and it skied over the head of the ever dependable Rory Willmott who swotted at the sailing ball as if swotting a fly. Alas in this instance he missed the fly and the ball sailed onwards at the pace of a snail. Yet never fear the brilliant Jon Dann was there ready to meet the ball with his outstretched glove. Yet by a malign twist of fate he had clearly become hypnotised under the spell of Rory’s swatting and alas he also completely missed the ball which sent it bobbling down from the West London sky and into the goal. 2-2.
The game got, shall we say, feisty at this point. It was dark, it was wet, it was cold and the pub beckoned. It didn’t end well. But the team didn’t lose and came away with a respectable point with some strong performances up and down the pitch.
Arun Solanki made himself a target for the opposition with his pace and forward leads, Samir Ahmed enjoyed his best game for the 5’s and James Marriott was on fine form up top. MOM was a shoe-in for Akshay who showcased to the world, or at least Osterley to never underestimate the one handed goal keeper.
This weekend the 5’s pick up with a fixture against East London to be played to a capacity crowd at Lea Valley (we are on the second pitch). Three points are a must and squarely in our sights.