On reflection, Sunday was a good day at the office for the BU10 Plate team, largely due to a strong finish against two strong sides when we started to play the sort of hockey that we are capable of...
We started brightly enough against Epsom B. We were very clearly the stronger team, with little of the action in our half. For the first half of the game, it seemed that we might fail to convert our dominance into goals though, in part from a failure to get a shot on goal away quickly (in contrast to the boys' keenness to shoot in the warm up). Two neat goals in the second half of the game were no more than our overall game deserved. 2-0.
The next game against a slightly stronger Spencer B followed much the same pattern as the first. Spencer’s threat was largely restricted to break-aways, which were well handled at the back and through some very capable keeping. Despite this, Spencer took the lead at around the mid-way point. We levelled the scores not long after, but could not convert a second chance to end the game 1-1.
Our third game was to prove to be our low point. Against an Oxted side that posed little or no threat, we allowed the quality of our game to reduce closer to theirs rather than dominate. We bunched in the middle of the pitch, playing so close to each other that our passes didn’t really change the game and even tacking ourselves on occasions. In fairness to the boys, their cause was not helped by some inconsistent umpiring.
It is difficult to say whether our improvement then started in our final group game against Wimbledon C or later, as Wimbledon were both the weakest side in the group and playing without a keeper. However, the fact is that this time we did let our superiority show to run out 6-0 winners. If nothing else this win can only have made the boys more confident going into the semi-final.
Two wins and two draws was enough to top the group and take on Wayfarers in the semi-final. Playing the best hockey of our day so far, we stood toe to toe with comfortably the best team we had come up against. Our defensive work was particularly strong, snuffing out a quick Wayfarer line up with ease most of the time and supporting the play moving forward. With scores locked at 0-0 after normal time, we entered golden goal territory and were very hard done by to be knocked out by a lifted short corner slap that went over our keeper and in.
The boys lifted themselves admirably from that disappointment to comfortably match Surbiton B in the 3rd/4thplace play off. Having taken the lead around a third of the way in, we rarely looked like conceding and indeed could have doubled our advantage but for some good keeping and a couple of wayward shots – however in contrast to the earlier games, at least we got shots away. Any win against Surbiton is to be enjoyed, but one that secured the boys a bronze medal that looked unlikely after the Oxted game but was finally thoroughly deserved is to be enjoyed even more.
Particular thanks from Epsom, Wimbledon and others to Luke and Tom for the number of games that they played for them. The Epsom coach in particular commented on the number of saves that both made in helping them to win their semi-final over Surbiton. In a funny way, perhaps we were instrumental in beating our local rivals in both the semi-final and the play off – now there’s a day to remember.