A New Beginning...
A good start that is promising for the season.
At 10.00am, on the Bishop Stopford School pitch, the Men's 4th team began there first match of the new season. A few brave souls led by their New Inexperienced Captain, Justin Smith, set off on an unknown journey. How would we perform? How would we play? Could we compete? and could we get a team together?
The team was a mix of players. A few experienced, a few new to the club, a few new to hockey and a few youngsters. They donned the "white" of the away team to take on the more experienced and seasoned 3rd's. The 4ths had a plan! identify the key opposition and try to mark them out of the game and hit them on the counter attack. To this end, Don Coleman was tasked with marking Neil Manley. By the end of the game they knew each other very well. Justin was given the unenviable job of trying to keep Ethan Smart quiet. The first third started well with the planning being executed perfectly. The marking was tight, the movement was good and the ball was moved confidently around the pitch.
Tim Plevin, an exile from Rugby, started his first match at right back for 12 months after moving to the area. He was confident on the ball in attack and defense and made numerous runs down the right linking well with the midfield. This surprised the 3rds and within the first 10 minutes the 4ths had counter attacked and got the ball into the D. More composed play and a bit of luck could and should have opened the scoring.
A bit of complacency, a lack of concentration and being caught out of position lead to the 3rds showing their skills and opening the scoring through Ethan Smart. Not to be down hearted the 4ths rallied and got back into their counter attaching rhythm frustrating the the opposition and making them try some speculative long distance passes. A couple of penalty corners were successfully defended, some long shots were saved by the keeper and the first third was over.
After a pep talk from Nigel Parkes, the 4ths came out for the second half. the 3rds had changed their tactics. Trying to pass quicker with more movement helped to put the defense under pressure. With the ball at the top of the D, a melee of players tried to clear the ball. Then disaster struck! Tim went down with a torn hamstring and had to be helped off the pitch. An eventful debut. This caused a re-jig of the back four with Bill Greenwood coming in. The 3rds sensed an opportunity and pressed further up the pitch. Attack after attack came to be repelled until the mobility of the back four was found wanting. Dan Carter made his way clear down the right in the D and hit a shot that evaded the dive of the Keeper to find it's way into the back of the goal.
The 4ths kept going. New players, Wallace Cairns and Josh Cox, were making good runs, playing intelligently and causing questions. Tom Sheffield was running himself ragged to try and find space and get in behind the defence. A couple of short corners ensued. But the ball was hit wide or saved. Play kept going back and forth. Nigel and Tony showed all of their experience and knowledge in keeping the ball away from goal and moving up the pitch. Phil Coward, who had moved to Right back was finding more space and seemed to be everywhere was providing a cutting thrust to hurt the 3rds on numerous occasions. Persistence paid off, when Don Coleman who had been doing an excellent marking job was found clear at the top of the D and rifled it in past the keeper.
By this time the 4ths were tiring and were grateful for the whistle to blow for the end of the half. The final third, proved a third too far for the 4ths, visibly tiring after giving their all. They soldiered on, but lost their earlier shape and structure causing the play to be more open. The thirds capitalised with a further 2 goals.
Could we get a team together? Yes, we could. And the bonus was, we have a team that can compete and will put other teams under pressure.
How would we play? All told pretty well for a new team thrown together. All players did well and should feel proud of what they achieved today.