Dan West produced an early contender for goal of the season with an awesome strike on goal as Southgate rammed home 3 second half goals in a devastating attacking performance that saw the first win of the new season.
Yet it wasn’t all plain sailing as the home side making their Premier Division debut made the Gate boys work hard for their win in front of a loud 200+ crowd full of Welsh support.
The visitors had already endured a tough journey when their coach broke down in the Trent Park car park at midday which meant a hasty reworking of plans and for some a long 7 hour return car journey down the M4. Despite leaving London with the mercury showing 28 degrees we entered Wales to squalls of rain and the thermometer struggling to reach above 15 degrees. The home advantage was made more distinct by a loud partisan crowd and a great Welsh atmosphere where the 10 hardy Gate supporters were out numbered 20-1.
It marked the premier league debut for a number of Southgate players including Charles Hamilton and Robbie Gill who have worked their way up through every mens team in the club to find themselves now playing the top of the hockey pyramid. A great achievement.
The Cardiff coach Walid Abdo is a smart operator and ensured his team came out firing from the pushback at 6pm as the light faded around the impressive Sophia Gardens complex. Within 3 minutes Cardiff had countered from a Southgate attack and won a PC through the efforts of Cardiff forward Nicholas Moran.
The Cardiff PC was delivered at pace, low and right where postman Si Walker managed to hold up the ball long enough for umpire Andy Higgins to award a flick despite the ball ending up against ‘Gate keeper Anton Van Loggerenberg’s backboard. A key moment awaited as Cardiff full back Ieuan Davis stepped up to convert but our new South African international showed his mettle by diving low and right meeting the flick with panache saving Southgate’s blushes and maintaining an even 0-0 scoreline.
Kwan Browne took the momentum sending a dazzling aerial cross court to the baselines to Rohan Bhuhi who drove the Cardiff D hard, flashed the ball across the face of Cardiff keeper Ioan Wall, winning the first PC for Southgate. Archie Foster another new signing from Nottingham stood top D and his flick was well deflected by Wall, yet Bhuhi doggedly worked back, won the ball and drove back into the Cardiff D for the 2nd Gate PC this time delivered by Foster top led, beating the outstretched Wall and claiming his debut goal and the first of our Premier Division campaign.
Southgate maintained some pressure winning a further 4 PC’s without success but in the meantime Cardiff started forcing a succession of turnovers and some unforced errors which built some sustained pressure and in the 21st minute resulted in Owain Dolan Gray driving a ball across the Southgate goal, the shot that followed being well saved by Van Loggerenberg before Alfie Dinell in the Cardiff number 5 shirt parried the ball high into the Gate goal, equalising and giving the home side their first ever Premier Division goal.
The home crowd engaged, the drums pounding and the rain falling there were some heart-stopping moments as Van Loggerenberg earned his spurs with a series of jaw dropping saves earning appreciative murmurs from even the Cardiff crowd as Southgate held fast with honours even at halftime.
Coach Kwan Browne’s halftime team talk worked a treat as the second half started at a pace, Gate linking the play much better from the midfield to the forward line with balls fizzing in and around the Cardiff D. Another Browne aerial ball from the ‘Gate 23 was well brought down by Captain Sterlini who fed Karan Sofat who in turn drove into the D, his shot parried by Wall but Will Calnan was there to effortlessly ship the ball over the Cardiff & Met keeper to give the Gate boys a 2-1 advantage.
Just two minutes later in the 43rd minute some sublime build up play, the ball effortlessly moving through the lines with a succession of one touch passes, led Richmond Lum on the left hand baseline forcing a shot on goal stopped by the hand of a Cardiff defender and in turn awarding a Gate flick clinically converted by the ice-cool Kwan Browne who poleaxed the ball top right.
Southgate continued to entertain the visiting support but the best was saved until the 63rd minute when Rohan Bhuhi managed to find a millimetre of space in the forward channel to slap hit a ball with an inch of curve across two lines to Dan West on the left hand side of the Cardiff D who took the ball inside and with a thunderous blow cleft the ball into the top nook of the netting to a roar from the Southgate bench.
7 final minutes played out from there with plenty of Southgate chances and some fine saves from the Cardiff goalie yet the game was all but done and at the final whistle along the scoreline read 1-4 to Southgate who brought 3 big points back to Trent Park and marked a statement performance back in England’s Premier Division.
This Saturday sees a tough test from Holcombe who head to the Trent Park fortress for our first home game of the season, Southgate supporters are encouraged down in numbers to cheer on the side and the W1’s before hand as we see a parade of GB internationals fresh from their silver medal winning performance in the European Championships. You won’t find better hockey anywhere in the UK at the moment- so make a beeline for Southgate on Saturday.