OW's 3rd XI 2 - Burnt Ash 3rd XI 1
By Gary Bage
OW's 3rd XI 2 - Burnt Ash 3rd XI 1
If you discount the unfortunate direction of redgra in the late 80’s, hockey clubs pitches and facilities have generally come on leaps and bounds over the last few decades, to the point now where we are not playing on a grass pitch with sink holes in it that you have to turn up 2 hours before the game and build the goals out of wood from and you can almost always have a hot shower in reasonably decorated changing room after the match.
Cut to the OW 3rd XI’s 4th league match in the year 2017 (the same weekend as Storm Brian hits the shores of the UK) and we find ourselves at our away venue standing by the side of the astro with no changing rooms and the nearest toilet being at least 500 metres away.
It’s no secret that a few members of the 3rd XI are advancing in years, and as they trudged the massive distance from the car park to the pitch, it was commented that some of the team should not pass up the opportunity of perhaps using the Armitage Shanks that was situated very near the car park and very far from the pitch.
Needless to say none of them did, and when we reached pitch side and assembled as a full team, it was no surprise that the warm up started with a swift jog back to where the toilet was, with the majority of the younger members of the team seemingly quite happy to just follow all the old men into a secluded toilet (a thorough review of the OWHC safeguarding policies is underway).
Once the entire team felt empty, the focus on warming up seemed to wane and we wandered back to the pitch and waited about until the match got under way, this was a mistake.
Although before the match started Willies did try and get some passion back by doing a “sticks in team shout”. This was led by Skipper Mike Cheese, and because he was so hopeless at it then had to be led again by Max Evans, who showed him how it should be done.
Right from the off the opposition seemed to have decided that the way to win the game was through strength and physicality, their first attack of the game was swift, fast and strong and resulted in the first chance of the match, with OWHC keeper Dan Whiting making a fine save very early on.
It was clear the match was not going to be one of beautiful flowing attacking moves, more agricultural physicality and that the most organised strongest team would win. It was going to be close!!
Willies defence remained resolute, with Adam Whiting and Rob Tyler quickly getting the measure of their respective wingers, Mike Cheese tackling anything that came near him and even Andy Wallace’s “chocolate teapot” calf muscles were holding out.
Willies started to get back into the game, Ian Harper and Andy Routledge provided some much-needed steel through the centre of the pitch, Antony Conway controlled the left side and Nick Batchelor and Max Evans provided outlets and the odd flash of flair when they were not being barged about.
Ed Pentecost had clearly come to play hockey and was frustrated that his usual ability to control the game through fast flowing pin point sprayed around passes was unable to be executed due to the physical nature of the game. A sentiment shared by the rest of the team who by now knew they were in a dog fight.
The break came mid-way through the first half when OW’s were awarded their first short corner of the game. Ian Harper took control and decided to initiate plan B from the 1965 OW first XI book of short corners. This resulted in him calmly placing the ball beyond the opposition keeper from the penalty spot and OW’s going one up.
This only seemed to annoy the opposition, who came back at OW’s stronger and more physically than before, which resulted in a rare counter attack from OW’s for which they were awarded a penalty.
Andy Routledge stepped up and did everything right, sending the keeper completely the wrong way, however it seemed that he may have only trimmed one side of his impressive (if rather unwieldy) beard that morning, as his balance was a hairs breadth from being on target and the ball hit the post.
OW’s carried on having to weather more of a storm than just Brian until half time.
Having sat down for a few minutes at half time after physical exercise and having not warmed up properly to begin with, the second half is more of a story of OW’s bringing their own problems onto themselves…
A few minutes in and someone had indeed put a teabag in and poured some hot water onto Andy Wallace’s calf’s, resulting in him needing to limp off after an assured display up until then.
Andy Routledge moved into the sweeper position and Simmo, stepping up to the 3rd XI this week, was plunged in to centre midfield, where he got stuck in straight away and helped regain control of the match.
OW’s were still getting battered, with Ian Harper going down having been sandwiched by 2 opposition players. A small amount of medical attention was required and reached him after a few minutes as the OW’s team had stopped wondering why he did 4 sideways sausage roles as if he had been hit by a grenade (and the Oscar goes to….)
It was mid-way through the second half when OW’s made another decisive break, this time with Centre Forward Kenny Mackness finding the back of the net.
The umpires at this point had decided the game was getting a tad too physical and decided to clamp down, leading to a flurry of sending’s off through green and yellow cards for both sides.
Through the turmoil of who was playing where when people were off the pitch and with Nick, Kenny and Wallace all carrying injuries, Burnt Ash pulled one back, making for a tense last 10 minutes.
However, the defence (which now included Centre Forward Kenny Mackness playing sweeper) did its job, Mike Cheese making up for the fact he has no idea how to lead a team shout by spectacularly clearing one of the few that got past Dan off the line.
Max Evans provided an outlet as a lone striker and skilfully and cleverly ran the clock down when he could, leading to a much deserved OW’s victory at the final whistle.
Back at the oppositions club house we were served a very nice curry and some penguin biscuits (with jokes that Nick and Max found very funny).
In an effort to avoid his pants clashing with his tee shirt (as happened the week before) Ed Pentecost wore his wife’s clothes and Coach John Batchelor brought everyone a drink and tried to convince them that all the enforced substitutions he made for injuries were tactically inspired and that’s what won us the match.