Guildford Hockey Club Est. 1912

Gondos Hit Blip in Quest for League Title

 30th Jan 2016

The match report brought to you from the short corner conceding Canadian.


So the Gondos took to the pitch on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Woking to continue our search for our first ever league title. With Epsom having been thrashed 6-0, Woking were our next opponents in this difficult patch of four good teams (Southampton at home and Oxford away to come). For those who aren't statos (i.e. those with full and fulfilling lives away from hockey) the Gondos probably need to finish these four matches within 1-2 points of 1st place in order to stand a reasonable chance of winning the league. Given that we are currently 1 point behind Oxford and only 2 points ahead of Southampton, a win was highly desirable.


 Woking currently sit 6th in the league however they have a reputation of having highly skilled players capable of very good performances. Indeed, in the home game against them the consensus amongst the Gondos was that they deserved to win and we were very lucky to escape with a 2-1 victory. So there was a certain amount of angst and trepidation as we took to the field of play. In hindsight, Woking are a team whose strength lies in midfield. There, they had 3 very good players - a shorter swarthy player we had not seen before, the taller, willowy Saffie and their best player who became affectionately known as Gobby. Now Gobby is a really good player and also really, really, really gobby, the bloke could talk for England. From the first moment he was running his mouth at the umpire and questioning every decision, and when his sanity and masculinity were challenged by Bottoms and Windsor-Lewis, he merely smiled a demented smile and kept on talking. The challenge to the Gondos was to not allow his girly man mouth to irritate us and to hope that his influence on the umpire was minimal.


 Woking's forwards do not offer the goal threat of Nigel or Alistair, however they are very clever in their positioning as they consistently play deep and wide taking defenders way from the central positions so that Saffie, Shorty and Gobby have room to play. The weak point for Woking seemed to be at the back, in particular on their left side so the challenge to Gondos was to keep their shape at the back, get enough bodies in midfield to challenge Shorty, Saffie and Gobby and to get the ball forward to Nick, Nigel and HP as quickly as possible to wreak havoc amongst their defenders. On that note we started with Bottoms, Savage, SWL and Tonks at the back with Belshaw, Regan and Kuhle in midfield and Manning, Sturgess and HP up front.


The early play was dominated not by Woking, not by the Gondos but by the Woking umpire. While he seemed a fair minded chap and was clearly capable, he seemed to be expecting Supervets to play and conduct themselves as though we were the 1st or 2nd teams of our respective clubs. As far as I can remember, the Gondos have had 2 or 3 green cards in 15 games so far this season, this umpire managed to give us 4 green cards in one game including 2 in the first 15 minutes or so. The first was for knocking the ball away after a foul was given, the second for not retreating 5 yards. Our experience this year is that most umpires don't even give fouls for those offences, let alone green cards. In addition to his officious style, he was constantly speaking to all players involved about the need to be more vigilant with respect to the rules or off they were going to go. There is an old adage amongst sports of all kinds that the best umpires/referees are those that the players and supporters notice the least.


 The Gondos opened the scoring with a great ball in from our right (where HP and Nick routinely caused them all sorts of bother) and a sophisticated finish from Sturgess. The play in the early going was fairly even with Woking being given far too much space in midfield but every attack from the Gondos looking dangerous. Bottoms was getting dragged out to the left by one of their strikers, Windsor-Lewis was forced to play deep as a result of the positioning of their other striker and Savage was trying his best provide Regan with some help in midfield. At this point in the game their umpire began to impose himself. In addition to the endless exhortations to the Gondos to control themselves, Regan was sent off for knocking the ball away after a foul was given and then Manning was sent off for not retreating. Given this, it was hardly surprising when Gobby went on a skilful run into our D with defenders reluctant to tackle him and a well placed push resulted in a 1-1 scoreline at halftime. 


 The second half began with another Gondos attack down our right, another great ball in and Sturgess' second. Woking continued to have too much space in midfield and as a result continued to put our back four under pressure. Eventually this led to a short corner which was well taken and the scored moved to even at 2-2. There was then an extended period of play where the Gondos dominated, especially on our right side, and in addition to Sturgess creating a 1 v 1 with the keeper (which he missed much to the consternation of his son who had a very clear view as to what the tottering old man and his bald spot should have done) we created 3 clear chances which we were unable to take.


Our continued pressure eventually resulted in another Sturgess goal (well done Nigel on your first hat trick this season!) and a 3-2 Gondos lead with only  few minutes left. It should be noted that during this period of play the Woking umpire not only sent off three more players with green cards, 2 Gondos and 1 Woking, but also awarded a large number of short corners to the Gondos, none of which resulted in goals. Indeed, at the risk of a defender, a newbie and a Canadian commenting adversely, it could be said that our short corners left a lot to be desired.


And so now we entered the last minute or so of the game with victory in sight in a tightly contested game. Woking worked the ball into our D, it came to Gobby, Bottoms put in a tackle and clearly won the ball but it went straight out of play over the end line and a short was given by the most honest umpire in the league who, sadly, happens to be ours. Now Nick Kuhle has made it clear that it was an obvious short, that the subsequent events were all Bottoms' fault and that this is what we get however I still think there is case to be made for this having been a very harsh decision (well I would, wouldn't I?). The opposition has the ball in our D within 7 or 8 feet of our goal, what is a defender meant to do? Leave the attacker to have a shot on goal? Play soft and let him play it off a foot for a short anyway? Or go in to the tackle and hope to win it 3 or 4 feet away from the attacker but not 5 or 6 feet so that it goes over the end line? If I was that good I wouldn't be playing for the Gondos, I think.


Anyway, the sad, sordid story is that Woking worked the last short well and stuck it away for a 3-3 draw with left Bottoms furious, Gobby ecstatic and the Gondos in 3rd place.


So why did we not come out victorious despite a strong team against opposition who sit well below us in the table? Well certainly Woking gave a very good account of themselves and their position in the table seems inconsistent with their ability. But from a Gondos perspective it seems we could improve on both the taking and defending of short corners, we had one of those days where too many good chances weren't taken and from a tactical perspective we should try and get as many good players as possible into central midfield as much to stop the opposition as to create chances for ourselves.


We are likely to have dropped into 3rd now, however victory over Southampton next week at home will move us back in to 2nd place, possibly even into joint 1st with Oxford were they to lose. And then it is on to Oxford for the biggest game the season. Let's hope everyone can make themselves available and that the league title is still there to play for. Kudos to Windsor-Lewis and Savage at the back and Nick 'Canuck-hater' Kuhle, HP and Surgess up front who tormented Woking down our right. 


 Woking 3-3 Gondoliers

 Go on you Gondos, the league is still on!


GHC Logo full colour final

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