Hockey Today 3rd November 2012

Andover 4th XI vs Salisbury 4th XI

The game started at frantic pace with Salisbury missing Andy Manders due to some unfortunate traffic management. Andover surged forward, clearly thinking there were goals in it for them, catching all of us more than a little flat footed. I seemed to spend the first ten minutes or so chasing the ball around with very little effect……even now I can’t really say why. I normally start thinking about the game early on in the day, and today has been no exception. I was warmed up, ready to go as normal, but for some reason in that first ten minutes I couldn’t win the ball – I couldn’t even really get anywhere near it. And I wasn’t the only one. We were totally and utterly inundated.

But still…………..we held on. Last ditch defending, missed opportunities by Andover and some fortunate umpiring decisions all helped us get out of the stickiest part of the match for us. Once we did, we found that for all the pushing forward Andover were doing, they were in turn leaving gaping holes behind them. And when I say gaping, I’m talking about nearly half the pitch most of the time.

As the game progressed, we managed to exploit the spaces being left, with through balls that unfortunately we struggled to use to create as many chances as we could have done. However, by attacking we had at least given Andover something to think about, and allowed the defenders in the team a little respite. Despite this slight turnaround from the opening onslaught, some of the things we were doing were more than a little frustrating. Not looking at the ball when it’s being hit to you, failing to stop a very simple and straightforward pass, and dribbling into trouble when there’s a pass back to a team mate. With the game more open than it had been, and pretty much both teams having been warned to keep quiet by the very good umpires, we found ourselves having as much of the play as Andover. Great running off the ball from Andy Scrase and Tim Garston put pressure on their D time after time and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves 1-0 up from a rare penalty corner.

Going into the halftime team talk, 1-0 up felt good, if not a mixed blessing. We seem to ignore our defensive duties far too often for my liking (and yes I know that perhaps it’s because I’m a defender that I think that way) and one of my concerns is that when we go ahead, we feel justified in doing just that. We could just as easily, in my opinion, have been 3 or 4 goals down, and I would have been much happier if we’d have talked about our defensive frailties, but stand-in captain Garrett gave a rousing team talk in another direction.

The start of the second half saw Andover once again pour forward, sensing if you like the inevitable goal. And, yes that’s right………they got it! A free hit given away in midfield by ‘yours truly’  was taken quickly, passed to their most effective player, who promptly ran into the D unchallenged and flicked it past our onrushing keeper, Matt Salmon, who had made some sterling saves, right from the first whistle, to keep us in the game.

This was when it got tough. Andover piled on the pressure, once again though leaving space in and around their defence, something we managed to capitalise on. Forward forays from Ben Coleman and Dan Hawksworth looked dangerous on nearly every occasion, and we seemed at this point to have the advantage once more. This proved the case with us going ahead 2-1. But as usual we decided to more than make a game of it, sloppy passing often gifting Andover the ball, and if not for stalwart defending from the likes of Manders and the two Barretts, the score could well have been very different. But, through good play we managed to score another, taking it to 3-1, and with this Andover seemed to wilt more than a little. The game was played out mainly in midfield, with the odd chance at either end, but happily for us, we weren’t quite hanging on as in past matches.

Notable mentions: Dave Hillier for his goal from a penalty corner. Ben Coleman for his ‘man of the match’ award. Dan Hawksworth for his running off the ball and his ‘dick of the day’ award. Surprisingly neither Hillier brother got in on the ‘dick of the day’ this week……perhaps they have a sneaky stash of pink things to wear at home…….hmmmmmm!

After last week’s loss turning into an awarded 5-0 win, things are looking up for Salisbury 4’s. However, I still feel we have to play a lot better and work a lot harder if we are to compete with the more accomplished teams in the league.

Bournemouth next week at home………………….

Your thoughts are much appreciated..........Thanks!