After a good season in the Legaue and Cup where we have had a series of close games, the squad knew the England Hockey Cup Area Finals West region group at Cheltenham would be very, very tough...
Drawn against Marlow, Fareham and Cheltenham we knew the standard would be excellent and a BIG ask for the team to qualify - only one team would progress. With a few drop-outs due to injury in the week we called up some players from the B team and we had 13 players on the day down in sunny Cheltenham.
Game 1 – Fareham (0-0 draw)
The 1st game saw us start brightly and all the team worked hard in defence and maintained the shape in our press to hussle Fareham. We managed to keep a high tempo in attack and kept the ball with Jake and Fergie super patient at the back and Will S rock solid at left half and Ollie working well down the right flank. Joel, Harry and Harvey linked well in midfield and James P was a Trojan when he came on from the bench. Will T shook off injury to always offer a threat in attack and Hobie was always beating defenders with his pace. Ben R also did well as a forward and then shifting to defence. Chan stepped up and played on the flank and always kept the ball or managed to beat the defender one on one. The first half saw us dominate the play and got a lot of short corners, we couldn’t quite convert them or beat a very good Fareham goalie.
The second half saw Fareham start to get back in the game and they started to hit us on the break but Ethan was super sharp in goal and the defence and midfield worked well to block any attacks. Fareham started to lose their discipline and a couple of cards followed. We went close with a number of shots and couldn’t quite score. But hugely pleasing start to the game and a draw was critical with Cheltenham drawing 2-2 with Marlow.
Game 2 – Marlow (2-0 win)
After a very brief debrief and rest for 30mins the boys were hungry for goals in the 2nd game. Having lost to them in the Mercian league despite dominating possession, we knew we had to take our chances and watch out for Marlow hitting us on the break via their NAGs squad players.
Again we showed composure on the ball and our discipline during the whole day was excellent. The attack kept threatening the Marlow goal and finally in the first half a neatly taken goal came from Will T ona deliberate deflection. The boys had been practising their routines, great to see it come off.
The 2nd half saw us compress the midfield in a 4-4-2 formation which worked well and we kept springing Hobie forward down the left flank. Ben R did well to score after a neat through ball from Harry and the boys were keen to score some more. The Marlow goalie played well and kept us at bay. The Marlow team also suffered a few cards from rash tackles and back chat to the umpire. I was super proud of the boys who maintained their composure and discipline. A well-deserved 2-0 win was key to determine the outcome of the group.
During the break we saw Cheltenham Men’s XI win a tight game against Havant and also saw a few of the u16 Cheltenham team bench for the men’s side. Cheltenham then played a good Fareham team and only won 2-1. This was key to the outcome of the day and meant GHC had a 2-1 advantage.
Game 3 – Cheltenham (2-2)
After a 90 min break the boys certainly tried to stay loose and were super focused on the final game of the day. It was a great way to finish the vent with the 2 top teams battling it out for the national finals. Cheltenham did well to win the u16 outdoor last season and also beat GHC in the indoor this year in a good game. The boys knew we had to at least draw but were keen to perform well and win the game.
We started brightly and the boys all worked super hard in defence and did well to shackle the very good NAGS players in the Cheltenham ranks. We had 80% of the ball and plenty of chances but couldn’t quite finish. Cheltenham hit us on the break and managed to get 1 short corner in the 1st half which they converted neatly with a switch move at the top of the D with 2 castles. Half time saw us regroup and I knew we would get the goals if we kept pushing up. We overloaded the right hand channel from the right half and it worked several times but the goal wouldn’t come. Cheltenham then did the same again with 15 mins to go and scored a second well drilled short corner. All the ball but 2-0 down.
Then came the key 10 mins of the u16 season, arguably of the last 10 years of training and playing as a group of players. We kept our shape and we kept pushing. Discipline was excellent and most of all they showed a will to score. The short corner came and Fergie saw his drag flick deflected into the goal past the giant Cheltenham goalie. Game on!!! 8 mins to go and the boys played like their lives depended on it. We stayed rock solid in defence and particularly on the aerial ball and managed to retain the shape in the midfield and get balls into the D. Wave after wave of attack followed and finally after a good ball into the D and a mad scramble Will T hit a nice reverse shot to make it 2-2.
A final 4 mins followed where we had to keep Cheltenham out. Every man in the squad was involved and played super well. When the final whistle came there was a collective roar from the crowd of faithful fans who made the trip down to Cheltenham.
I could not be prouder of the squad on Sunday. After many years of almost making the outdoor they collectively worked super hard to win the group, kept their composure and most of all believed they could do it and backed each other.
Massive thanks to all the parents for their commitment this year and ALL the boys in the age group who have trained week in and week out plus those that could make the regionals due to injuries/school commitments.
Thanks to Caroline Tristem for all her organising and Ed Tristem for his support and great coaching on the day and to Rob Field for his overall coaching this season and last and Martin Sampson for his ongoing support over the last 10 years. Also, thanks to Dan Fox for his input of a Friday and also to Gary Lonie and Melinda Rock for all their help and work across the juniors over the past few years.
Now the squad have an amazing opportunity to go to the Under 16 National Championship Finals in Nottingham and do their very best. Onward and upward!!!
Top effort by the whole team, on the pitch and off the pitch.
Squad – Ethan, Jake, Fergie, Ollie, Will S, Ben, Harry, Harvey, Joel, Hobie, Will T, Chan, James P
Coaches – James & Ed
Manager - Caroline