The Under 18 England Hockey Championships are knock-out. It's all or nothing in each round. With so few matches and just about all of the boys playing men's or school hockey, the challenge is to keep them playing like a team...
The boys won their first three matches in the knock-out competition 4-0, 7-0 and 5-0.
Things got somewhat more difficult in the quarter-final round where 2-0 down at half time became 2-4 up with 10 minutes to go and then 4-4 on the final whistle; the win was secured through a penalty shoot-out.
A run of three away matches was ended when we were informed by England Hockey that our semi-final opponents would be Wakefield with a home draw for us (nice - what a relief).
And so the Yorkshire boys, coach and parents made the trip down to Surrey on the first Sunday in April. They wouldn't want a long drive home empty-handed...
But the Guildford boys were up for the challenge and had a strong start despite missing two of our starting XI. Plenty of chances in the opening minutes were either wide or saved including a beautiful chip looping the keeper...that the Wakefield defenders saved off the line! The Guildford boys hadn't forgotten how to play with each other and several players were invovled in each of the chances. Seventh time lucky, a fast ball in from Raph found Joel and was knicked on the line by Will T for 1-0.
Some super work from Joel found us our first PC - the flick was saved and rebound cleared, another chance saved just afterward, but within a few minutes another PC was scored with Harry getting the deflection. 2-0.
Wakefield had some chances, too, but Elliot was thus far having a quiet first half.
The second half started with the Wakefield boys redoubling their efforts. They had a few circle entries in the first few minutes of the half but these were met with tidy defending. We then had a beautiful cross in from Will T but the finish was just missed. Some frustration may have now been creeping in and Wakefeld were first to see yellow.
The advantage didn't last long though as two minutes into that card, we also had a 5 minute yellow, followed by another and another. I lost track of how many were off at the same time but I think at some point it was 9v9 and at another we were 9v10. During this time we managed to get 2 PCs for and 1 against - Raph put us ahead 3-0. Which felt a long way from the possibility of 2-1.
Halfway through the half Wakefield scored a PC - the initial shot was saved but they put the rebound in. With less than ten minutes to play a deliberate tackle on Raph carrying the ball forward past the mid-line had another Wakefield player enjoy a five minute break (he started running to the bench before the umpire could even indicate or get his card out). A series of short corners came and went and Isaac put one in for a final score of 4-1.
Meanwhile in the other semi-final, Cheltenham scored to go up 3-2 with 30 seconds on the clock. Beeston equalised in that final half minute and so the outcome was decided on flicks 4-2 to Cheltenham. Alas, the twists and turns didn't end there, two weeks later we were informed that Beeston were the Finalists after a query about an inelgible player.
It doesn't make much difference to us as the match was a close one - we still need to do our best on the day:
- Boys Under 18 National Final
- Guildford v Beeston
- 4pm at Reading HC
Well done to all of the players - they all did their part and played well together. Well done, Coach Tylo, for getting the team furhter than ever before in this age group! Special mention for Raph who had a goal and three assists today.
And huge thanks to super support from the crowd. Parents, siblings, younger GHC players - and notably almost all of the coaches who coached and umpired the boys as U8-14s were there including Genie Ross, Caz Woods, Sean Cook, Gary Lonie, Jeremy Holt. How great to have had their support back then and still now!
Thank you also to Andrew Fergusson who organised yet another fabulous match tea and post match environment with 'brunch' for both teams after the match.
Please come and support both Under 14 and Under 18 Boys at Reading HC on 11 May!