Scorers: Laurence Taylor, Greg Wildisen, Tony James
Those who were there will long remember this game for “THAT GOAL”, but more of that later……
Any game against St Albans is a great opportunity to renew old acquaintances and revisit some familiar old phrases and this was no exception. A strong Titans team set out to be the perfect hosts, regularly giving the ball back to the opposition during a relatively uninspiring and frustrating first half. In rare forays into the opposition circle, the closest we came was a lunging first-time sweep shot from Tony “Big Hands” James which struck the post, a fine reverse effort from Joergen which screamed past the post and a shot cleared off the line from skipper Jatin after he had cruised into the circle with the ball glued to his stick. At the back, behind one of the deepest-lying defences since D-day, keeper Cliff actually had little to do except shepherd a couple of shots past his posts. We did suffer one casualty unfortunately after a run from Pokey out of defence proved a stretch too far for the body and he came off to add some wise words and inspiration to the volume of advice from the sidelines.
Come half time and change was needed, so Southgate produced two master strokes. Firstly, changing from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 in an attempt to use those areas of the pitch which had hitherto seen little coverage and then, moments before the second half was due to start, firing up the water cannons for an unlikely watering of a pitch which had seen 3 hours of rain that morning. This latter ruse had the effect of stiffening the collective St Albans hamstrings to the extent that they were to suffer two such injuries in the second half.
The tactical switch also brought immediate dividends, if perhaps from an unlikely source. Possibly frustrated by the forwards inability to find the target, right back Laurence Taylor ghosted into the opposition circle. Picking up a pass on the left of the D, he sat their keeper down with a nonchalant drop of the shoulder, rounded him on his strong side and, cleverly disguising his surprise at being so high up the pitch, coolly slotted home from a narrow angle. The socially-distanced crowd went wild and we were left to appreciate a moment of pure class and to rue the fact that the Match of the Day cameras weren’t present.
This was the cue for Southgate to start forcing open the floodgates. As our forwards ran their defenders around, Brian Cade opened up his bag of tricks in front of a partisan crowd and wreaked havoc down the right-hand side. Howie Wilson bossed the midfield and provided the link between defence and attack whilst Ali Priestly at left midfield ensured that for all their huffing and puffing, St Albans would have no joy attacking down that side. Most importantly, we started passing to people wearing the same-coloured shirt. More goals followed from clinical close-range finishing from Greg and Tony as St Albans finally got the message that it was not going to be their day. Tireless running and pressing right across the pitch led by Lorenzo, Joergen, Ali and Greg upped the team’s intensity levels and St Albans had no response. We even had time for three of the squad to take 2-minute green card breaks to replenish the batteries as we more than matched St Albans in the alternative tackling stakes.
On the few occasions they did venture beyond halfway, Wiz, Biffi and Toby Munyard snuffed out any danger with little or no trouble and with first Wiz and then Ali getting the better of their most talkative threat, the game had turned. So much so that midway through the second half Biffi was seen loitering the in the opposition’s D, but sadly no suitable pass arrived for him to emulate Laurence. However, he did sting the hands of the keeper at what seemed like our 74th short corner, which the statisticians afterwards recorded as only our 2nd direct corner strike on goal, so its always good to win and know there’s still more to come.
So just as we were really enjoying ourselves, it was over. A thoroughly deserved 3-0 win (based on the 2nd half performance) and a win in the banter stakes as well, always important against ST A (there are not many people who can successfully weave the words “duck tape” into a hockey match but Toby pulled this off with consummate ease). Thanks must go to umpires Tony and Jonny for their patience and insight, tirelessly supported by Biffi in his role as umpire liaison officer. But really, it was all about “THAT GOAL”……..