The exciting South qualifier in Canterbury, where the boys won Silver and booked their place in the National Finals, then led to the Christmas break. On the re-start and in and amonst GCSE revising and mocks, the boys did got ready for the National Indoor Finals...
Qualifying second in our South tournament, we were in a pool with 3 regional winners. The boys were motivated to put in a good performance the whole weekend.
Pool Match 1 v Cheltenham (4-2 loss)
The first game was v Cheltenham packed with NAGS players and the reigning outdoor champions. First half we controlled the game well with good passing throughout the side and went 1-0 up from a well taken goal from Hobie. We conceded a soft short corner in the last minute of the half and the opposition buried it for 1-1 at the half. Second half was tight and with a few cards we were down a player. We conceded one goal in that time and then Jake did well to make it 2-2. We were a bit too loose in the final 2 mins and conceded 2 soft goals when diving in for tackles. Overall it was a tight game and we learned a lot from it, namely key to stay calm and also take our chances and not dive in on the tackles. 4-2 loss but we still knew we could qualify from the group.
Pool Match 2 v Harrogate (5-4 win)
Game 2 was an absolute cracking game full of ebb and flow and very close. Both teams knew they had to win to stand a chance of getting 2nd in the group. Lots of chances for us in the first few mins and we went 1-0 up. Jake was then off for a physical challenge and Harrogate were back to 1-1. Hobie then did well to make it 2-1 and Harrogate scored a cracking goal to make it 2-2. Harry was then off for what appeared a fair tackle and the boys did well to scramble in defence. Hobie then made it 3-2 after a fine run by Will T and lots of movement from Joel, Will F and Jasper. Solid defence from Will S, Jake and Fergie at the back kept it tight. Harrogate came back in the 2nd half and Connor made a series of great saves. But they eventually scored to make it 3-3 and then we scored again 3 mins to go to make it 4-3. Firthy then put another in, but the goal didn't stand. Harrogate then pulled it back to 4-4 and literally seconds left on the clock. We then managed to get a short corner and the buzzer sounded. Hobie pushed out to Harry who scored for 5-4. Game on for finishing second in the group and well deserved by the whole squad. Very happy for the boys to come through a hard game with a win. Onward ever onward!
After a hard day it was great to chill out at the hotel, swim and then refuel ready for what would be a hard day 2 on the Sunday.
Pool Match 3 v Norwich (6-4 win)
Norwich managed to beat Repton so we knew this would be a tight game in a very tough group. We started brightly and remained calm and patient. Will T weaved his way on some mazy runs and forced 2 excellent saves from the Norwich goalie. Early runs came from Jake and Will T down the flanks and then Hobie finished well after a direct pass down the middle from Harry. Norwich then counter attacked and went 2-1 up after a neatly taken goal. Will T responded to make it 2-2. We rolled the bench and all the lads responded well. Ben R made an impact up front with a neatly taken reverse flick to make it 3-2 and a neat pass from Hobie made it 4-2 after the second goal from Ben. 4-2 at half time. Coach Rob rolled the subs to keep the boys fresh and we remained very calm and kept moving the ball. Connor was solid at the back and kept talking to his defenders to keep it tight. Joel scored to make it 5-3 but to Norwich’s credit they hit back twice to make it 5-4 and then Harry scored another corner at the end to make it 6-4. Job done and a good squad effort.
Pool Match 4 v Repton (3-1)
After a very long break between games we thought the game was going to be pivotal. But as it turned out we had qualified due to Harrogate beating Norwich leaving us on 6 points. But the boys didn’t know and we wanted them super focused on a good performance. Beeston started quickly and Repton's Xav forced Connor into a smart double save and Will T almost scored after a mazy run. Will F and Jasper hassled in attack and Joel did well in the middle to keep passing the ball and maintaining our formation. We then forced a short corner Harry converted and scored a second after a direct pass from the back. Overall we maintained a great shape and Hobie made it 3-0 just after the half. The remainder of the game we played a very composed passing game and only conceded one goal from a decent Repton side. 3-1 win and onto the semis against our old friends Surbiton.
Semi final v Surbiton (1-1 draw, 3-2 win on flicks)
As soon as we lost to Cheltenham we knew we would likely face Surbiton who had cruised the other group barely conceding a goal and scoring 4 or more per game. We had a very clear game plan to keep calm and pass the ball as much as possible in attack whilst playing a high press in defence. The game was an excellent example of the indoor skills the boys have on both teams. Great passing and lots of patience waiting for an opportunity to go forward. Firthy managed to sneak down the right and nutmeg the goalie to make it 1-0 and a huge roar from the crowd. Surbiton pushed hard and our Connor saved a well hit short corner and then Surbiton's Connor managed to score to make it 1-1. The GHC posse worked super hard and with Fergie, Firthy, Jasper all rotating on we had the legs to stay in the game. In the last play of normal time Surbiton pinged it off the boards and it hit Jake’s feet to concede a short corner. The crowd waited with baited breadth and Connor did brilliantly to save off the Surbiton flicker (also Connor) to make it 1-1 in normal time. The drama was palpable as we headed to penalty strokes. The team got together and I honestly sensed we had the mojo and momentum to win it. Harry, Hobie and Will T all volunteered to take the strokes and we were on first. Harry stepped up and buried it low and left. Surbiton scored via their Connor. Hobie then managed to score again bottom left and Surbiton made it 2-2. Then Will T managed to convert to make it 3-2. Surbiton's third stroke player then managed to go just too wide and hit the post. We had won but was impressed with the muted celebrations of the boys and they all consoled the Surbiton skipper who had missed. Never great to win on penalties and harsh on anyone who misses. A cracking game from 2 good teams and we were headed to the final.
Final – Cheltenham (3-1 loss)
After a very solid start we got hit on the break and conceded a well worked goal in the first 2 mins. Then Connor made a stunning stick save to keep a strong Cheltenham team at bay. We managed to move the ball well but Cheltenham defended super well and their left back was like an immovable mountain down the right boards. It was tight at half time only 1-0 and we felt we could get a break. The goal keeper had a great game and saved a couple of short corners. They scored after the break to make it 2-0 but Harry hit back with a reverse stick improvised goal after a mistrap on the short corner, 2-1 and game on!! Sadly we couldn’t quite get the break through and Cheltenham managed a 3rd goal to make it 3-1. Actually a very tight game but Cheltenham were worthy champions based on a solid defence and took their goals well.
An AMAZING weekend and commitment from the whole squad. The boys behaved well as a squad and had a great time, learned a lot about their skills and their will to compete. Thanks to Rob, Ed and Dan for all their coaching prep and for Rob on the day. He was great with the boys and ensured they were focused and calm. Thanks to Caroline for all her work in the background and a big appreciation for all the support from the parents. Another great weekend of hockey for the squad and now back to focus on the remainder of the outdoor season!!
Squad – Connor, Jake, Harry, Joel, Will F, Will T, Will S, Hobie, Jasper, Fergie, Ben R
Coaches – Rob & James (asst)
Manager - Caroline