The Under 16 Boys had three knock-out events today: Regional play-offs for the England Hockey National Championships and two Mercian League Finals Day Round 2 Play-offs. This was our squad having to play five different clubs' A teams from across the Region and Mercian League all on the same day. A very tall order...
The Mercian Home Counties Colts Hockey League is the largest and most competitive boys hockey league in the country. The League organises fixtures for the Under 14, 16 and 18 boys' age groups. The Under 16 League consists of a Premier League, six Regional Leagues, and three 'Development' Leagues, providing competitive hockey matches for more than 60 U16 teams stretching across a geographical area from Fareham to Canterbury to Oxford to Hertfordshire.
Each league has a points table and all Guildford teams have done well standing first in their league tables with a couple of matches left to play.
Guildford's two Regional teams had chances this weekend to progress to the Mercian League Finals Day which pits the top two Premier League teams with two teams from the Regional Leagues. Guildford have two Regional teams and both were involved in a Round 2 play-off today.
Mercian League Regional Play-off Round 2 - South+
The South+ Team had to face Milton Keynes - an unknown quantity as far as we were concerned as we had not come across them before. We had home advantage having been the higher ranked team in the leagues thus far. The match was played at Charterhouse as at GHC we were hosting the Under 10 Girls Surrey Cup and Plate all day. This was MK's top team and their boys were bigger and stronger than ours. We got caught out too many times trying to go through the middle and from not using the space on the width. MK closed us down and were able to score five goals. Not our best performance but the boys never gave up. Having won their league table, they were unused to not winning but had no reply to a well drilled, bigger stronger faster opposition on the day. We will bounce back with our final two league matches to play and a friendly v Horsham between now and Easter.
Mercian League Regional Play-off Round 2 - South
The South team had another unknown quantity in Blackheath who mid-week we were assured by their manager were struggling to get a team out. Home advantage again and again at Charterhouse, the opposition were 11 men and a parent stepping in to manage the team since at home everyone was involved with the Men's Trophy match that day.
A hard fought battle, Blackheath had some very good players and worked hard against us. We let a 3-1 lead slip and the score was drawn 3-3 at full time. This was knock-out so someone had to win. Extra time saw the match still drawn with an extra goal for each side: 4-4.
On to the penalty shoot-out which was...drawn...at 3-3 after the first 5 penalty flicks. In sudden death, Guildford came out on top and can look forward to Round 3 against West Herts on 20 March. Well done, boys!
England Hockey Tier 2 - Regional Play-offs
Meanwhile, the Premier League team were off to Bournemouth early doors for their three matches to try to qualify for a place in the England Hockey National Championships Finals. We were in a pool with Ashmoor, Bournemouth, and Cheltenham, having come first in our league table the First Round of matches (Tier 1), with four wins and a +19 goal difference.
Ashmoor 2-1 win
The first match against Ashmoor started slowly and Ashmoor were pressing us very hard. Their marking was tight but we had the upper hand and the ball was mostly in our possession and mostly in the opposition's half. The first time Ashmoor got the ball inside our 23 and against the run of play a shot on goal snuck in to make it 0-1 to the opposition. Tournament hockey is tough and small mistakes can have huge consequences. That one goal could have been the end of our chances.
In the second half Josh came on having partially recovered from not feeling well. He rose to the challenge and was able to slot in not only an equaliser but the winner as well and we were back on track with our dreams of a fifth consecutive EH Finals for GHC.
Bournemouth 5-0 win
Next up were Bournemouth who had drawn with Cheltenham in their first match. Having warmed up against Ashmoor, the boys were now finding their groove with some very fluid passing. Some good players in their midst, Bournemouth were leaving us enough space to get a few goals and Isaac opened the scoring in the first half with a neat chip over the keeper.
Isaac also opened the scoring in the second half with another skillful shot past the keeper after terrific work from Tom who had chucked the ball over the midfield and Charlie who snatched the ball out of the air to cross in to the waiting Isaac (and it is football that is called the beautiful game?!?!!?). The third goal was also a team event with Raph intercepting an oppo clearance in the middle of the pitch, sending to Tom who lined it up to Harry who crossed in for Ross this time to score. Ross got his second when he grabbed the rebound off of a saved short corner shot and Josh got his name on the scoring sheet for 5-0 with a p flick near the end.
Cheltenham 0-0 draw
With two wins for us and Cheltenham on a win and a draw, Guildford needed a draw at least to go through. Cheltenham were physical and fast and worked us quite hard. We did have our chances in outfield play and PCs but could not get the ball in the net. Neither could Cheltenham and with the 0-0 draw at full time, Guildford were through to the National Finals.
The two day England Hockey Finals Day event will take place Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd April at the Lee Valley National Hockey & Tennis Centre, part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The competition will be very tough. Good luck boys! All welcome to come and support.