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Monday, 20 April 2009

2nd XI secure Open League title

2nd XI 2-0 Surbiton
Match photos
In almost summer-like sunshine, the season finally ended with a 2-0 win over Surbiton for the 2nd XI, a result which gave us the Surrey Open League Premier Division title as well as promotion into what is now Surrey Division (although what it will be once the post-season-reshuffle dust settles nobody knows).

We started knowing we had to win to sneak past Old Whitgiftians for the first time all season, and with only Will Stephens missing from the usual line-up and a Surbiton side who were bottom, we were confident. Perhaps too much so. For the first 15 minutes we were dreadful, off the pace, not pressurising the opposition and looking as if we would struggle.

James Robson was called on to make a couple of saves as well as a timely interception, while at the other end we started producing shots but not on target. We gained a few shorts without threatening off any of them, while with Pies, making a welcome return for Surbiton, was always a danger as he sucked in defenders. Fortunately, he was left with little support, although he managed to earn a frustrated/bewildered Andy Duff a green card early on from a novice umpire.

Ten minutes before the break we got the breakthrough, Rob Merry rifling in an absolute bullet across the keeper from the right-side of the D. Rarely can he have hit the ball harder.

That settled us, and for the second half we controlled the game, with Robson’s only significant role being to earn a green card for abusing the distant umpire for a decision at the other end of the pitch.

Duff and Jon Heard dominated the defence, Duff even making a very rare surging run the length of the pitch, while the Merrys showed the good form they have been in all year. Chris Porter played as only he can – brilliant at times, combatitive at others, and happy to argue with players from either side. He was for once the innocent party when he accidentally clipped a defender in the face with his stick only be hauled off by Surbiton’s diminutive No. 10, who was clearly spoiling for a fight, as he bent over the prone player to apologise.

We could have had half a dozen, and Duncan Mottram deserved a goal for all his hard work but with only the keeper to beat, he undercut straight into his helmet for the least intentional save of the day. Minutes later the defence was finally stretched too far and Paul Acutt slammed the ball home after finding himself in acres of space in a move which started with a double foul from Duff on Pies which left him spreadeagled on the ground.

The rest was fairly unthreatening. Ed Breton, after a quiet first half, ended the season in the hustling, bustling, battling way he approaches every game (as well as the post-match BBQ), Neil Grimes carved holes in the right side of the Surbiton defence, and Dodie Khurshid briefly looked as if he might be on for his second goal in 19 seasons until David Knapp, taking a commanding/dictatorial touchline role, removed him from the fray. Preston Rutt looked in form until he received the most bewildering order of the day from Knapp who barked at him to “keep up” with Cookie.

The promotion secured, we enjoyed some champagne in the clubhouse and the celebrations went on late into the afternoon. It is quite possible Duff is still there.

The side deserved its success. We had only lost once all year - a miserable away day at Wanderers – and had taken eight points against the sides in second and third, with the two wins against them coming away from home. We undoubtedly benefited from the release of several stalwarts from the 1st XI but all blended in well and, crucially, it was an enjoyable season and a happy side. For that, Rob Merry deserves huge credit.

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Sunday, 9 March 2008

Match reports - March 8, 2008

NPL 0-5 1st XI
Another far from convincing performance but perhaps it is churlish to be critical of a 5 – 0 victory but it is a sign of the high standards we have set ourselves this year. NPL came to us as bottom of the pile and if we were expecting a push over it was not to be as NPL took the game to us in the first 15 minutes. Our break came when our striker was impeded illegally by a stick tackle when about to score and Breton popped away the stroke. Two more quick goals from debutant Andy Craven and a beautifully executed free hit by Rippers and the game was over even though Robbo had to make two important saves.

Any chance of a come back from NPL went when their left back earned himself a ridiculous yellow that he decided should be turned into an “advance to home card” with him jumping into his car and leaving his remaining 10 team mates to fight on without him. Adair and Knipp added to the NPL woes finishing off 2 moves with tap ins, Adair being particularly unselfish in setting up Knopp. Adair was in high spirits having just become a dad of twin girls, allegedly born the size of Ed Breton.
Two games left and two wins required for some self esteem.Rex Bermon

Croydon 2-2 Ladies
After an eventful journey to Croydon with a few sore heads and managing to get there more by luck than judgement, we were determined to come away with a better result than the 0-2 loss at home to them earlier in the season. Croydon were leading the league table, but we knew we were more than capable of beating them.

We were glad to have our usual defenders back of Ros, Tux, Muriel and Mez - who had her work cut out form her from the start, marking Croydon's nifty winger and captain. We started well passing the ball around well with some excellent distribution coming form the back. Before long Caroline 'The Havoc' Hall had made an excellent run up the wing passed it across to Vikki who passed to Dora 'Tjhe Scorer' on the edge of the circle who melted the ball in with her usual class putting us 1-0 up! Croydon as expected pushed back hard won several short corners of which Katy had to make a couple of excellent sales before unfortunately one of them crept into the back of the goal levelling the score. Another Croydon shot five minutes later ricocheted off the post before a much welcome half time.

After our usual half time and much appreciated oranges sent by coach Mott (who was unfortunately not able to attend this week or next as he is living it up snowboarding - priorities!) we knew we had to up the anti as Croydon would be out to do the same. The midfielders of Sarah H, Jax and Nina (the latter who didn't appreciate the extra running around required of playing midfield this week rather than forward, after a night out on the tiles in Chelsea - she even did the walk of shame as she turned up in her previous nights outfit - that's right Nina, I can make things up too!), were running their legs off doing an excellent job of supporting the defence and moving the ball up the pitch and creating the attack. Even so Croydon won yet more short corners and a rebound off a Croydon forward between her own legs and into the goal which we didn't have a chance of saving put us behind for the first time in the match 2-1. Our heads were by no means down though! Although May had got slightly lost on her way to the pitch (about 1/2 hour late lost!) she had turned up at half time so we had some fresh turbo speed legs now warmed up and ready to come on! Mez was also glad of having Mrs Sangster to sub with too and between them they did on excellent job on their difficult player! Less than 10 minutes later the ball was crossed into the circle went from Sarah H to Vikki who slotted it past the keeper for a silky finish 2-2. We were not done by a long way though but neither we Croydon! Both teams battled hard with a relatively even distribution of possession and some end to end hockey. We had a shot go just wide of the post, they caught us on the break, we conceded penalty corners and they managed to concede none the whole match, Nina received and elbow in the jaw (I don't know what it is about her she seems to wind her opposite players up - keep doing it Nina!) and so the score ended 2-2 all. A fair result and an enjoyable match where we played some great hockey, although three points instead of one obviously would have made it more rewarding! We are now still just 4 points off a promotion spot with two matches to go. There is still a small hope of promotion but relying on some results going our way and us keeping our momentum going. Come on ladies we're nearly there! Let's keep the good work and training up for a couple more weeks and it will pay off gaining us a league position we deserve, even if not promotion! Jackie Joyce

Old Kingstonians 2-4 2nd XI
There's a lot to be said for momentum and confidence, with 10 points now taken out of a possible 12. Playing against an OKs side that had humbled us 6-1 at home the week before Christmas, this was a different encounter with us starting strongly on a flat, fast but dangerously slippery pitch. The effort and marking from back to front was superb and laid the foundation for a succession of short corners, the second of which was stopped by a pair of size 9s on the line. The ensuing stroke was calmly tucked away by Bruce. We continued to control the game and two swift counterattacks resulted in 2 more goals, the second of which was finished by the again excellent Doug marauding forward from right back. Unfortunately we did take our foot off the pedal and conceded a sloppy short corner and even softer goal.

Half time was tinged with an air of nervousness, but again we pushed on in the second half and a short corner soon followed with the strike from Paul hitting the top of the backboard. We had a number of other chances either denied by poor finishing or a decent OK's keeper and in fact OK's had the last say with a well taken deflected goal, but the edge had been taken out of the game and we comfortably held on for a well deserved 4-2 win.

As yet we are not guaranteed of our league place and need to target at least one win from our last two games to ensure safety, but if we continue to play like this that should be achieved. Proud to be part of this side today! Paul Acutt

3rd XI 2-1 Woking
As our illustrious leader donned his tightest Speedos (oh God, that’s disgusting) and sunned himself on the holding deck of the Guantanamo Bay Hilton, we embarked on the penultimate game of the season. Woking are at the bottom of the table, being kept company by our fine selves, which is a product of a sporadic season in terms of performance levels. The first half certainly served to remind us of the type of play that we have been trying to avoid, where we looked disjointed moved the ball rather sluggishly, to the extent that we conceded a relatively early goal. Woking had a couple of quick breaks on the back of their success in our D. However, towards the end of the first half we began to put together some good play with Grant, Tim and Preston working well together on the right. We won a couple of shorties of which the second yielded a goal with Preston taking a shot on goal saved by the keeper with Richie Lawrence stealing in to nutmeg the unsuspecting goalie.

With the formation critiqued and overhauled during the half time break we moved into the second half looking better, more structured and with a higher tempo. Great play notably from the player of the season Stuey Steele linking with Grant and Tim meant that we were in a far more commanding position and were able to build some good possession and moves into the oppo’s half, 25 and D and eventually converted one of these via a well taken goal from Armitage (G!). Silky skills were on display from here on in with Preston text book 270 degree spin to put the ball through to Richard L, however the Woking defence prevented the moved yielding the result that perhaps it deserved. We held the game and looked very much in control to take it to the final whistle and win 2-1.

Man of the Match was Grant who had a very strong game indeed. Many thanks also to Andy Eve, Tommy Trinder and Cookie who step in to ensure that we had the full complement and umpire, for this pride-preserving game. Other results meant that we are now relegated but at least we won with pride on the day that was confirmed. Chaz Martin

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Saturday, 1 March 2008

Match reports - March 1, 2008

The 1st XI’s promotion hopes were all but ended as we were held to a 2-2 draw at TD by Bank of England, a wondergoal three minutes from time robbing us of all three points; the Ladies came from behind to beat Wimbledon 3-1 and go within four points of top; the 2nd XI came from two down to draw with Merton and lift us out of the bottom three; the 3rd XI look set for relegation after a 0-5 drubbing by NPL, a result which leaves us needing two wins and then other results going our way; the 4th XI also suffered a big loss, 1-5 at Teddington, and now have relegation issues of their own. The Vets beat Cheam 3-2 thanks to a remarkable Tommy Trinder goal a minute from time.
1st XI 2-2 Bank of England (Click here for match photos)
After the feast of last week’s cracking game this week was not so much as after the Lord Mayor’s Ball but more like the hangover after the mother of all booze ups. Quite simply we were awful and although the fat lady is not yet singing she is certainly well into her rehearsals. Last week there was a sense of foreboding before we started but today we were off the pace in the warm up and looked jaded as we started the game against a competitive but very weakened Bank of England side. Indeed, they were short of arguably their three best players but we did little to capitalise. A lethargic first period saws us going in at half time one down, Bank being allowed to come into our circle unchallenged and roll the ball across the face of goal for their left attacker to tap home. We had bags of possession but created very little having only a couple of telling shots.

We knew the second half was going to be the defining 35 minutes of the season and somehow we scored two goals with Rippers sweeping home a Smudger cross and Knapp snapping up a loose ball from an Ed Copleston short corner strike that came off the keeper. At that point we should have closed out the game but it was not to be and B of B scored a wonder reverse stick goal that flew just inside the post through a crowd of players. We again faced a final two minutes to claw a win from the game and although the final move saw us with a four-on-two advantage the ball into Knapp from Smudger was on the final whistle and the goal bound shot was half way to the goal when the whistle went. Four seconds longer on the clock and we would have won the game.

Nevertheless a win would have masked our weaknesses and it really is a mystery how we can play the type of hockey that we played last week only to plumb the depths this week. Half the side – including myself – were not at the races today and mainly the players from whom we needed big games and so now a long spring and summer to lick our wounds before convening again for next season and the hope that any new season brings. David Knapp

Jax JoyceLadies 3-1 Wimbledon
This week saw us play against Wimbledon, who’s recent form of decent results was in stark contrast to when we met them at the beginning of the season and so this was a game where we couldn’t sit back and relax … if only we would listen to Jax’s words then things would haven’t been so nervous during the first ten minutes!

As the match started we seemed to lack any energy and this wasn’t helped by the pitch with its new layer of sand (which gets in everything!) and no rain which meant the ball was going at a snails pace and made for some sloppy mistakes. Having won the toss a second minute stumble (by myself) didn’t help things and let Wimbledon get a great counter-attack in play and a shot on goal … and all of a sudden we were on the back foot. However as we cleared our lines, through some stronger(!) defensive work and Katy’s quick keeping we slowly started to get our composer back together … that was until Wimbledon got a free hit outside the D that was pushed onto the stick of one of their defenders who was running through only for her to get a strike!
0-1 was not part of the plan and certainly Viks had obviously had enough of us prating around and within a few minutes of the restart had decided to take on a shaky Wimbledon defence in such a manor that earnt her the nickname Houdini… after dribbling the ball from the half way line she went round one player, then round another, round a third and may-be a forth (I lost count at that point as I was in ore) then through the keepers legs 1-1 (that’s better!). Right now to get a second … as we piled on the pressure with a renewed sense of purpose one of their defenders politely decided to give away a flick unfortunately Viks had momentarily lost her super powers and flicked it wide to leave the score 1-1 as we went into half time.
With the second half under way we set about getting goal number two and it wasn’t long in coming. From a 16 yard free hit we steadily built up a string of passes from the back through middle and eventually onto May’s stick. Her speed meant she had the power to get past her player with some ease and a strong from the right, just yards from the back line, skimmed past the Wimbledon deference and onto Anna’s stick who smacked it in for our second – phew. Even though we were ahead Wimbledon weren’t going to give up easily and had a number of opportunities on goal. However a Wimbledon short corner allowed us to get our third goal as they missed the push out which was picked Caz, through to Nikki, onto Vikks and then Nina smashed home our third.

If was at this point you thought Wimbledon couldn’t come back but a goal mouth scrabble meant that as the ball was cleared off Katy’s pads it hit a Wimbledon stick and then straight onto an OC players foot right on the line (yes it was mine!) … P flick. Cookie who hadn’t even intended to umpire was actually secretly enjoying the game as he awarded his second p-flick. However converting p-flicks was obviously a problem and Katy’s eyeballing of the Wimbledon player paid off as she softly push the ball which neatly caught under Katy’s pads … NO goal! With that we battled hard to final whistle and brought home the three points. Well played girls a great three points and if cut off and there is still a incy wincey chance we could get promoted but at least get a respectable place so lets keep at it! Big thanks to Cookie and Armo for umpiring much appreciated as ever! Helen Hawes

Merton 2-2 2nd XI
Except for the rather chilly breeze, I felt back home on Saturday. Having watched the 1st XI play Bank of Boks in the morning before turning up to play an all South African - bar one token Kiwi - Merton side riding high in the league whereas we languished third bottom in a potential relegation spot. We resolved to give it our best and enjoy it as any point would be a bonus, especially with poor Austin having to play as a high striker despite a pulled hamstring meaning he was outpaced by their keeper on a good few occasions.

Sadly we started sluggishly and sloppily, gifting them two goals on the break within 15 minutes. Perhaps earlier in the season we would have buckled, but some added niggle in the game - resulting in their centre-forward seeing yellow for raising his stick to the ever innocent Chris Porter - appeared to rally us as a team. Heartened by two wins on the spin, we improved vastly and actually looked the better side going into the break with Bruce, Mike and Paul all creating, but squandering decent chances.

Jax JoyceThe half-time team talk was brief but positive and soon had the desired effect with Paul drilling a reverse stick shot into the bottom right corner of the goal to make it 2-1. We pushed on and Chris made a rare foray into the opposition D where Mike slipped a deft pass back to him and the finish was calm and precise - the celebration the exact opposite with repeated gestures and whoops directed at any opposition player within 30 yards. 2-2 and again we looked the stronger side forcing a few short corners and Paul hitting the post from a tight angle, but it was Merton who earned a short corner on the final whistle after a scything player-and-all tackle from Chris. It had to be taken three times but the defence held firm. A loss would have been cruel, and somehow despite the pre-game expectation, a draw felt less than we deserved.

A superb performance considering we basically played with 10 (thanks to Austin though for playing wounded) with tireless running from Bruce and great performances from all which included games of the season from Mike, Tiss and Doug all playing in not their usual spots. The result means we jump up one place out of the relegation zone, but the other teams below us both won with a game in hand, and this result will count for nothing if we do not push on... Paul Acutt

3rd XI 0-5 NPL
In a game we had to win against the one team we could realistically catch, we were in reality never at the party against an NPL side who passed the ball well and always looked a threat on the break. We lost the battle in the middle and looked less than threatening up front. One down at the break, we went two down from a well-taken opportunists’ poach six minutes after the break and from then on there was only one winner. As has happened in several games, we shipped late goals to give the scoreline a rather flattering look, but there could be no complaints. We now face two bottom-end sides, but even if we win them both, we have to hope that NPL fail to get a point, and on the evidence here it’s not going to happen.
The OCHC ladies rush off the lineXX

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