PRE SEASON MATCH | Men’s 2’s vs St Albans | Thursday 25th August
A balmy Thursday evening at Oaklands college at the fag end of August provided the backdrop for a thrilling encounter with a well drilled St Albans 1’s opposition in front of at least 10 spectators.
The 2’s managed to produce a team of stunning eclecticism as it forged old, new and Felly into a semblance of order in a bid to get the season off to a winning start. Felly fresh from a funeral and in absolutely tip top condition led a rousing team speech about winning the league and retaining possession and scoring goals before retiring to the bench.
The whistle was blown alas within seconds the ball fell to the trusty stick of Louie Sadler who promptly attempted an aerial ball which alas avoided the air entirely and instead found it’s way onto the St Albans centre forwards stick forcing a blinding save from Akshay donning the pads in the Southgate goal mouth. Just moments later under a steely St Albans press the ball fell back into the Southgate D and the inevitable Penalty Corner that resulted in the inevitable first goal to St Albans. 0-1.
Yet by approximately minute 5 the 2’s awoke from their summer slumbers and drove forwards with intent. Batch and Sadler tag teamed their way up the pitch and said right back then found himself looming D wards and launched a strike of vicious venom into the left hand netting which rippled with pleasing alacrity. 1-1.
At this point a strange sight occurred when aspirant men’s 5’s player Alastair Whatley was seen running enthusiastically onto the pitch, a-likened to a streaker at the cricket albeit one fully clothed in Southgate kit- he continued to run for the better part of the quarter for the most part entirely ignored by both teams.
Amidst this rare sighting the team was actually playing rather well. TJ dominating in midfield with Webby and even Batch got himself onto the scoresheet with a fine reverse making it 2-1 by the end of Q1.
Q2 saw Southgate dominant and stretched the lead to 3-1 with Vivek Dongha dancing like a lemur down the right channel through the majority of the St Albans team before getting a shot away parried by the St Albans keeper and whipped in by Lewis Hollett with clinical precision.
Q3 saw Southgate ship two goals as St Albans came back hard as the score went to 3-3 before Batch again squeezed in another poetic pirouette landing the ball onto the back board to keep Southgate’s noses in front going into the final quarter.
Q4 began poorly with Todd Lomas seeing green and an industrious Lewis Hollett getting grumpy and a St Albans goal being scored to even the scoreline at 4-4. The massed throng of spectators could however sense that something was in the air that gave credence to the fact the game was not done.
So it came to pass 5 minutes from the final whistle that Lomas back on the pitch made an aerial pass into the D which deflected off Oliver Wickham and then a St Albans player for a long corner…that was what was meant to happen…except the game veered into freeform improvisation when instead Whatley (who was much to everyones surprise still on the pitch) managed to find himself on the baseline by the injection spot and much to the vocal displeasure of the team got his first touch of the game on his reverse at shoulder height preventing the long corner and sending the ball back into play at the pace of a maudlin snail.
Then the Gods truly got to work as the ball started running down the baseline towards the goal as if on the crest of a hill and began swinging outwards like a James Anderson special. At this point time was suspended and all eyes on field and off darted towards the beautiful sight of the ball having found it’s out-swing then found it’s in-swing and Whatley’s brilliance soon became apparent as it rolled around the Keepers forlorn kicker before hitting the far post and against all the rules of physics and the laws of dynamic movement met the backboard with the gentlest of thuds and shocked sounds of silence emanated around the Oaklands citadel. It was a goal from the unlikeliest source scored in the most unbelievable fashion that only sheer luck and happenstance could explain with any sufficiency.
The silence was then rudely broken by Whatley who roared back to the half line shouting ‘I scored for the 2’s’ with such exuberance and vocal glee that he was swiftly substituted by Felly for fear of long term repetitional damage to team and club alike. The slightly bemused St Albans team then played out the final 5 minutes without changing the scoreline which ended 5-4 to the 2’s.
Whatley may have stolen the headline but there was a genuinely superb debut from Guy Garner who played with real composure and an assuredness of touch from the outset, moving the ball well, making strong decisions and more than proving himself on the pitch. Mention should also be made to Adam Shiret who returns to Gate after a few years away at University and who showed real quality in midfield. In truth the whole team put in a huge shift with depleted numbers against a strong oppo. At their best the intensity that Kwan has instilled in the 1’s has already found its way into the 2s and on the basis of this showing have much to look forward to in a season when promotion to the National League is the clear objective.
Although how they’ll cope when their centre forward moves back to the Mens 5’s is a question that may need some answering.