Salisbury Strikers 1 - 1 Guildford Pilgrims
Saturday morning started as Friday night had ended; with the onset of panic that an 'administrative error' meant that, in fact, we only had 10 men for our Salisbury fixture, not the 11 stated on the previous missive. Cue frantic emails to left, right and sundry to see if we could find the final piece of the jigsaw.
At least with eleven men we could start thinking about avoiding a double-digit defeat for a long-distance away game. But then by a curious twist of fate, and owing to the demise of Will Evans’ front suspension bracings and his subsequent unavailability for the Men’s 2s game in Dulwich, and thanks to some last minute Google maps referencing to see who lived closest to him, and some very last minute phoning around, and thanks to pick-ups offered by Stuart and lifts offered by David Toplas, by departure time we had not only the bare eleven but a very good eleven as well.
There’s no doubt that the presence of at least one particularly good player not only lifts everyone’s attitude to the game, but also provides us with opportunities to play well on the field. Everyone, to a man, stepped up to the mark and raised their game. Some excellent saves from Adrian; solid & reliable defending from all three backs of Neil, JT and Toplas; great distribution through Mat, Steve and Stuart; and the occasional moments of flair from Bill and Gordon up front.
Whilst I earned a short corner or two I certainly was unable to deliver from the top of the D. Guess what I’ll be practising at training on Wednesday night! For the whole of the first half we soaked up all their pressure; perhaps 10-12 attacks compared to our 2-3. Then it came to Will to open the scoring and give us the lead early in the second half. As time ticked on we were able to start considering maybe we could take home 3 points rather than an additional deficit to our goal difference. Unfortunately they found an equaliser close to the final whistle, but I’m still happy to take the one point.
I find myself slightly perplexed to write this, but I probably have to offer man of the match to David Toplas. Not only for consistent defending throughout the whole game, and not only for more consistent 16-yard hits that his counterpart Will, but for a truly spectacular, instinct-driven deflective save of the ball from a short-corner shot that was heading just inside the post. The sort of hand-eye coordination and instinct that can only be learnt from five decades of playing hockey.