Result : WIN 2-1 vs Shefford & Sandy
Match Report : Neil Murphy
One of our longest trips of the season – all the way up the A1 to Sandy where appropriately enough we found a sand pitch in good condition and awaiting the 5A’s diminished from a 14 man squad on Tuesday down to 12. Thanks to Chris Ray who rescheduled his work day to bolster our resources.
This is always a tricky fixture and Shefford & Sandy had a good mix of youth and experience much like ourselves. On the experience side of the equation we welcomed back Tony Mastroddi and provided a 5A debut to the canny Magnums star, Colin Warne – all of which meant that the captain, for once, was not the oldest on the pitch. The youth and skill of Daniel and Nayan was to pay dividends as the game progressed.
An undefeated run since Christmas has put us in confident mood so it came as no surprise to any of us regulars that we were 1-0 down after 15 minutes. Although we probably had the run of play, the Oppo were strong on the break with two strong forwards threatening.
Unlike previous weeks, we played some good hockey throughout the first half and Shefford’s goalie kept them in the game several times. We had our chances. That said, 0-1 down at half time was a fair reflection.
We had another battle on our hands to avoid a difficult conversation with the Chair of Selectors.
If this season has shown anything, however, it is that the 5A’s know how to put up a fight and the more we battle the better our hockey becomes.
As the second half progressed, our defence dominated their attacks – Giles dealing with the threat from their right wing and Colin building our possession down our right, playing in both Nayan and James. Mark man-marked their best player out of the game.
Our regular midfield trio of Os, Antony and Daniel took control of the game supported by Chris Ray rotating between midfield and attack. As a result the second half was played largely in the Shefford & Sandy half. Os had a great game, combining with Colin and Nayan down the right whilst Daniel droves us on down the left in partnership with Chris and James. Tony patrolled the Oppo D – always a threat and directing operations.
Antony, nursing a back injury, to quell the opposition breaks played a more defensive centre-mid role. Or he did until he popped up in the D to meet a cross from the right with a first time strike to leave the goalie stranded and the 5A’s back level at 1-1.
The pressure was building on Shefford & Sandy. They were struggling to get out of their half as our midfield and forwards gained possession and we increasingly attacked down both flanks. A couple of short corners came to nothing…still we attacked. Nayan, growing in confidence, was a threat every time he had the ball typically coming in from the right.
With barely five minutes to go, Colin fed the ball from defence to right-mid Os who quickly moved the ball to Nayan 25 yards from goal. Beating two men, Nayan was in the D and unleashed a shot which ricocheted against the backboard. 2-1 to Southgate!
Could we play out the last few minutes? A Shefford short corner caused alarms only to be followed immediately by another one – this time followed by the final whistle – to great relief and a very obvious foot by their striker – the 5A’s had held on for another win – as usual, 2-1, and another impressive second half performance. The long drive back down the A1 has rarely felt so good.
Next week we face St Albans in our previously postponed fixture – we have a 3-1 defeat to avenge from earlier in the season.