After some slight concerns as to the game actually being on, the Men's 1's arrived at a sunny Havant College for a crucial match against the team who they had conceded the leadership of the league to the previous week after two disappointing draws.
The team talk was all about structure and out passing the oppo with Pewts leading a very technical chat on how we would defend short corners. After 5 minutes of whatever Dobbo quipped "defending shorts is easy lads, just don't concede any!"
On to the pitch we went and saw that Havant were fielding 5 international hockey players! 2 Polish gents, the Spanish centre forward, the Australian indoor international drag flicker and , oh yes, an ex GB international flown back from Australia to help the Havant push for national league hockey.
I looked around the lads, saw their focus and thought "we will be ok here". Total domination by us of the first 15 minutes followed which was only interrupted when our player-coach Dobbo got subbed so he could give an impromptu team talk to the bench. We continued to press and were playing all of the penetrating hockey when right on half time Havant were awarded a harsh short corner following a hit into the D from 3 metres. Not looking forward to half time one nil down after having had all of the play the defenders and Pewts made sure it was a non event and we went straight down the other end and got our own short just as the half time whistle went. Dobbo had his skates on and slipped just as he was about to rifle it into the goal apparently. Nil -Nil and we were happy that we had nullified their best players and an increasingly partisan crowd. Team talk was simple; more of the same guys and keep the work rate up; we are fitter, faster, have more structure and have game changers.
Early second half exchanges followed when a break down the left from Grannell saw a dangerous D penetration with our veteran forward Bluett collecting the ball and calmly finishing into the bottom right, past the on-rushing keeper.
We knew we would now face a lot of Havant pressure and sure enough they pushed us back and won a slew of short corners. After the third blow out they removed their star drag flicker and used a different routine, again to no avail; perhaps we were psychologically winning the battle.
In the 65th minute with the Havant team and crowd becoming increasingly anxious we won a short corner after good work from the forwards. Up stepped Dobbo, slip slap, and from nowhere appeared Walshy to deflect into the corner. 2-0 and it was then very quiet. To their credit Havant really upped it in the last five minutes and finally converted their first short corner, I'll take one from seven all day long!
The last minute was then spent up in the Havant 23 with us playing keep ball right in the corner much to Havant's dismay; the whistle went and a richly deserved 2-1 win was secured. Togetherness, structure, discipline and execution of our game plan.
Much banter and decent grub back at the Havant clubhouse with the whole defence up for MOM - Druce winning it for a flawless performance and Fox being DoD for being, well just Jack Fox! Beers, banter and a cracking train journey back followed by too many beers in various parts of London concluded another great away day for the boys!
9 left to play and we need to win them all starting with another hard game at home next week, to third in the table, Oxford Hawks. They have the leagues leading drag flicker in their midst; Pewts homework this week again please!
At this stage of the season as much support as possible is needed; lets make Langley Park a fortress!
Men's 1st XI Manager