GHC Under 18 Boys followed up their sensational performance in the South Indoor qualifiers with a trip to Telford for the England Hockey National Super 6s Clubs Finals.
The top two teams from each of 5 regions were split into two pools, from which the top two would play a cross-over semi-final with those winners competing in the final
- Beeston (Midlands 2)
- Doncaster (North 2)
- Guildford (South 1)
- Old Loughtonians (East 2)
- Cheltenham (West 1)
- Repton (Midlands 1)
- Bowdon (North 1)
- Marlow (South 2)
- Ipswich & East Suffolk (East 1)
- Ashmoor (West 2)
With 7 wins from 7 played, 30 goals scored and only 3 let in during their South qualifiers, the Guildford team were well up for this next level of competition. A friendly against a visiting team from Melbourne, Australia over the Christmas break and an internal warm-up match a few days before the event provided a base on which to keep the skills and teamwork at the ready.
Saturday 14:10 - Pool A Match 1 v Old Loughtonians - 4-0 win
First up in Pool A were Old Loughtonians. OL had pushback and the boys put them under immediate pressure – we finally forced an error to win the ball in their half but couldn’t make anything of it. Two minutes in we won a short corner but the shot was saved; we then didn’t do enough with the ensuing long corner, however, the intense pressure was starting to take its toll. Elliot S had two good attempts on goal and it was then Will who opened our account for 1-0 with the whole team working hard.
OL kept working and won a PC with 5 minutes to go in the half which they put wide left. When the ball came up the other end, Elliot C in goal spotted it early and kicked to Raph who slalomed it up to Elliot S who earned a PC from his efforts. The flick was deflected and then Jake scored from the resulting long corner for 2-0 not long before the half time whistle.
It was a nervous re-start for both teams and the boys had not yet really found their best. But 2-0 was something to build upon. Elliot in goal was called upon early in the half with a save and kick to his outfield namesake. We then had a PC called against which was saved by Raphael on the goal line which he pushed to Elliot C for the further clearance.
The boys were working at building up their play but some good individual attacks from the OL boys stopped our machine from working as well as we would have liked. A fine tackle from Elliot S who then sent to an on-the-run Freddy was a thing to behold but unfortunately the target was just missed.
OL then had a shot that passed our keeper but hit the goal post and went out for a 16 which had the defence somewhat relieved. OL then tackled and followed up with another fine shot which had been, unfortunately for them, from just outside the D (phew).
There was some very feisty work going on in and around our D. Then we saw one of the moves of the tournament with Freddy in a super tackle to steal the ball in a split second to Elliot at the edge of the OL who got his angles perfectly right and pivoted the ball in for 3-0.
3-0 felt a long way from 2-1 and the boys were able to settle somewhat more into their rhythm of confident passing and control. Harry then had a nice tackle to win the ball and send to Isaac who took the time to play the keeper making him commit to score a beautifully lifted ball over him for 4-0.
In the waning moments, we had a few near misses including from Will from both backhand and forehand. The first job was done, but there was still a lot of work to do; this was a win but the team was far from their best. We would need to do better to achieve our pool objective of coming top.
Saturday 16:30 - Pool A Match 2 v Doncaster - 3-1 win
After some much needed input from Coach Ed, the team started very strong and after some very good team play, Elliot S got a touch for 1-0 within the first minute.
This was followed up by second and third attempts that came close. Doncaster started to get the measure of us though and at seven minutes got on the break and finished well for 1-1.
Just after we were awarded a PC which went off for an LC but the ball was deemed to have been slapped so it was a 16 for Doncaster. (We had been warned that the umpires were briefed to look out for slaps.)
Not long after, Doncaster were awarded their own PC and managed to get a shot off which Elliot C saved at close quarters. Up the other end we had a near miss and won a PC just before the half time whistle but the flick was saved.
The half time talk served wonders and in a repeat of the first half start, Elliot S scored in the first minute for 2-1 after patient, solid play from the whole team.
This was followed by a near miss from Will who sneaked a ball off of a Doncaster defender who was not attentive enough just outside of his own D.
More pressure in the Doncaster D led to a shot being saved by a foot – there was some question of it being a p-flick or not; a PC was awarded but our flick went left of the left post (argh). A Doncaster attack then ended with an Elliot save. And we missed another great opportunity up front.
Another PC was awarded for us, during which a Doncaster defender broke early so they were down a man, and the ball slipped to Will who scored for 3-1.
A repeat of the previous corner (Doncaster defender breaking early) resulted in an LC for us but the shot was saved.
Up the other end our keeper was called into action to cover but a well struck Doncaster ball hit the post and a final effort in the Doncaster D saw their keeper having to save to keep the score at 3-1.
A swim and meal in the Park Inn Telford was then on the agenda. Followed by a good night’s sleep and an early start for the first match of Day 2’s programme.
Sunday 09:00 - Pool A Match 3 v Beeston - 3-0 win
Being in the first match of Day 2 meant getting up earlier, but did have the advantage of more court time ahead of the first match.
We’re not sure if this helped, or maybe it was the copious breakfast buffet, but the first half of this match was probably the best the boys played all weekend.
A strong start had us moving the ball around well and Isaac manoeuvring in the Beeston D and winning a PC in the opening minutes. This was scored but the goal was disallowed for it going in off of a slapped ball.
All teams were warned verbally before their matches on Sunday that the umpires would be looking at this more carefully as the more experienced umpires felt like some of the slaps were not being called consistently in the previous day’s action. The boys and coach were in varying degrees of denial about the disallowed goal, but the manager reminded them we had been warned – and with such a strong start that it looked like another goal was inevitable, so everyone calmed down and got on with it.
With some good patient passing and pressure in the Beeston D we were in with a PC chance. Unfortunately, the flick was saved but the resulting LC had Will getting the ball to a well placed Elliot who scored our second (I mean first!) goal for 1-0 three minutes in.
A minute later Raph made a lovely tackle and got the ball to Freddy who broke through the middle and passed to Will in the D for 2-0.
First half action didn’t stop there as Raph had a shot wide after some good work all over the court. Another Raph ball to Freddy found a foot in the D and in a brilliantly worked PC Raph scored for 3-0.
The second half was about protecting our lead and our players who had put in the most yardage thus far (we were hoping for a long day). While we didn’t sit back and only defend – Elliot had a shot saved after pouncing on a defender’s missed ball, Will had a good attempt from the edge of the D and an attempt by Raph and Jake late in the game was saved – Beeston did have some chances in the second half including a strong shot on the post and two saves from Elliot in goal.
Worth noting that no other team had kept a clean sheet up to this point, and the Guildford boys had two!
Sunday 11:20 - Pool A Match 4 v Cheltenham - 3-1 win
So, with three games played and three wins, we had a place in the semis. A win in this match would secure the top Pool A spot.
This was a messy start and we lost the ball early in our half by rushing and forcing the play. We recovered well and got better control of our game and patient build-up. A good move from Raph to Freddy to Will saw the Cheltenham keeper put good pressure and our shot was wide.
An excellent period of strong, fast, patient passing ensued with Raph and Freddy passing a dozen times to each other ahead of Raph picking the right opportunity to get it to Elliot up front but the shot was just wide.
Same again with a strong pass into the D but unfortunately this time the pass was too strong for anyone to get onto.
We had another chance whereby Will made the perfect steal inside our own half, ran and shot but this was also not converted as the shot went wide.
We then faced a PC forcing the Cheltenham shot wide with some good running out. Shortly afterward Elliot in goal made a good save which landed near Raph who cleared the area.
Cheltenham didn’t give up and Elliot in goal had to make two saves. And then the Cheltenham keeper had to do the same after some great work from Isaac to keep the ball and get a shot on target.
Strong messages from the coach at half time meant smarter work in the second half but only after a somewhat messy start to the half.
Another PC against us was saved. We then managed to lose the ball in our own half and a strong Cheltenham shot on target flew under Elliot’s left arm with no other defensive cover near enough for the team to go down a goal for the first time since the South final.
This spurred the boys into more action and Elliot up front had a shot wide and a shot saved ahead of a PC which was slipped and put in by Elliot for 1-1.
We then had a series of four PCs, all four of which went wanting (first was a missed injection - ! - but we kept the ball and Jake had a shot go wide). At one point we let down our guard and Cheltenham were in with a chance that Elliot in goal managed to cover well.
Harry then got a ball quickly up to Isaac who outskilled on his way into the D and flicked in just inside the edge for 2-1.
Tensions ran high in the final few minutes as Cheltenham replaced their keeper with a kicking back. Cheltenham had a LC which turned over for a hit to us. But when Harry tried to take it with the Cheltenham players very likely not three distance away, we were penalised for drilling instead of them for being too close. The resultant PC against us could have drawn the match but the shot was high. Good defending and an attack that ended on a Cheltenham foot in the final seconds of the match resulted in a PC for us while their keeper was not on the pitch.
With Cheltenham not running out in the PC after full time had run out, no easier goal had ever been scored: an injection from Raph to Freddy who waltzed towards the D unchallenged and tapped in for 3-1.
Twelve points from twelve, 13 goals scored and only 2 conceded in the pool stage. This set up a semi-final with local rivals Marlow who battled on Day 2 to get a top two place in Pool B after losing their first two matches on Day 1.
Sunday 15:05 Pool A Winner (Guildford) v Pool B Runner-up (Marlow) 2-2, 3-2 win on p-flicks
Marlow. They were very determined given how much of a turnaround they had experienced during the day – coupled with the two wins Guildford scored over them in the South Finals and that the two clubs will meet in the next round of the outdoor EH Cup – this was always going to be a tense affair.
The game started pretty even with the Guildford boys looking the more comfortable on the attack. A Will shot was saved and another chance from Elliot off of a free hit in the attacking half went unconverted. After much good work from the boys in the back – Freddy, Isaac and Raph in the middle – we got the ball to Elliot who scored.
Marlow quickly countered and within the minute passed the ball over a stick into the D and knocked in for an equaliser. Our team were apoplectic because the pass in was a lifted ball and we thought the goal should not have stood.
We had to get on with it though as the umpires were not going to change their minds. Soon after an Elliot shot was saved on the line by a defender after he had beat the keeper, and another shot from Jake went just wide.
We were looking the more dangerous in the attack but it was important to not let Marlow get a foothold in the game and so for the final 2.5 minutes of the first half the boys held firm while Marlow passed the ball around the back. Not the most interesting 2.5 minutes of hockey but we went into half time honours even (but still seething about the lifted pass).
An important half time talk – how to break the impasse. The game started under more intense pressure from both sides. Elliot got a shot on goal that was kicked by the Marlow keeper. Once it dropped to the floor, Will got onto it and scored from a very tight angle for 2-1.
We then had six minutes to protect the lead with Marlow replacing their keeper with an extra outfield player. Marlow managed to get two shots on goal and the second one went in after the first was saved.
And so the result and which team would progress to the National Final would be decided by penalty shoot-out. Captain Raph won the toss and elected for the team to go first. Isaac stepped up and things not quite going according to plan, shot just wide left. It happens.
Then it was Elliot C’s turn in goal; he read the Marlow strike perfectly and saved to keep the scores level.
Elliot S scored his as did his Marlow counterpart. Will scored his and his Marlow counterpart followed suit. So 2-2 and we now went to sudden death, Marlow would shoot first; the same three takers would take again but they could change the order.
Marlow’s first sudden death taker put his flick over the cross bar. Will then stepped up and slotted in for the win. What a relief. The boys who were in the Barcelona U12 competition back in 2012 (Freddy, Raph, Isaac and Elliot) were reminiscing about when they had to win that competition's final twice in similar circumstances!).
Very well done to Marlow for battling their way back to make it to the semi-finals and scoring two equalisers in the semi.
Now we waited while Bowdon took on Beeston in the other semi-final.
Sunday 16:50 Winer Semi-Final 1 (Guildford) v Winner Semi-Final 2 (Bowdon) - 2-0 win
Guildford and Bowdon both arrived at the Final having won all of their matches and both having, by far, the best defensive records of the tournament. That old adage about offence wining matches and defence winning titles rang true.
It looked very much like the best two teams had got to the final and from the looks of the few first minutes this was going to be a close match. End to end with two chances just missed for us followed by two chances nearly missed for Bowdon (a searing pass across the goal and a shot wide).
Jake had a shot saved. And then Elliot C was called in to action in goal, saving with Isaac and Raph clearing up afterward.
Isaac then had a shot saved and another. Then Fred got the ball to Isaac who did a beautiful run into the D but was fouled in the D for a PC with 3.5 minutes until the half. The Guildford effort was stopped by a Bowdon foot on its way into the D after the keeper was passed so a p-flick was awarded.
Following on from his 100% record in the Marlow shoot-out, Will stepped up to score it for 1-0. Shortly afterward he had another shot saved and then it was half time.
We were ahead but it was very close and could have gone either way. The boys took this in their stride and continued to try to posses the ball, build up good chances and shoot. It was end to end until five minutes in when Bowdon were awarded at PC. The boys defended well and not long after Elliot in goal was called into action to save a breakaway attempt followed by another shot that went wide.
Bowdon were working hard to attack our goal and our defending had to be perfect. They were putting more and more pressure – including a missed pass across the face of goal and a chance on goal that was forced wide by our solid defence.
With 2.5 minutes left on the clock Bowdon replaced their keeper with an extra outfield player. With Ed making his instructions very clear from the side-lines, the boys defended with everything they had and prevented Bowdon from getting any balls inside dangerous territory in those tense minutes.
Guildford then broke down one of the attacks and with all Bowdon hands on deck to attack, they couldn’t get back quickly enough to defend and Elliot was able to score into the open goal in the final seconds of the match for 2-0.
The medal ceremony followed and the inevitable photo shoots of boys with trophy and medals.
Very well done to the team: Elliot C in goal, Freddy and Isaac in the back, Raph in the middle, Elliot S and Will up front and of course Jake and Jasper who subbed in and rotated perfectly up front and Harry who did some stellar work in the back so that the team worked its best over the whole weekend.
Also a huge thanks to Ed Tristem who used his break from uni studies to coach the guys alongside Dan Fox in the South Finals and took them for the second year running to the National Finals. With a 100% success record in BU18 Indoor National Finals, it doesn’t get better! Very well done, Ed – can’t thank you enough.