On a windy, and at times drizzly, Saturday evening in Wokingham, this was not a great game of hockey and the Gondoliers never really managed to get out of second gear...
The poor standard of floodlighting created problems for everyone, not least for the umpires who struggled throughout to interpret exactly what had transpired in the close-quarter melees.
South Berks fielded a strong team with some very energetic and skilful players in the midfield. This opposition pace and skill made it difficult for the Gondos to get a consistent foothold in the game. Basey, Winn and Shelbourne made several good forays down the right hand side that were the best passages of the first half but, as with the approach play across the whole field, the final ball was often not good enough, played into hopeful areas and conceded possession back to South Berks.
Howells and Sturgess did have some success through the middle and the Gondos won a number of penalty corners. On one such occasion the ball was stopped by a defender's foot on the line resulting, somewhat disappointingly, in another corner which was saved by South Berks' more than competent keeper. Luckily, a few minutes later, Sturgess went through once again and fed Howells who, on the second attempt, lifted the ball into the net. Gondos one up.
Any Gondos' joy was short lived however when, shortly before half time, the South Berks centre midfield player was allowed to dribble all the way along the Gondos base line to slot in under Eales' body for the equaliser. The teams turned around 1-1 at half time.
The second half was really no improvement on the first. Mullins was having a mare in the midfield unable to control, distribute or even see the ball! Reinforcements were brought into that area to bolster the situation but, in all honesty, the general passing and distribution by the Gondos all day was well below their normal standards. Attacks almost always finished up with a poor choice of passes and ceded possession. When a trio of penalty corners did come in the last ten minutes, the best chance for a winner was squandered by Mullins with a complete air-shot after a slip back to the injector.
Eales made some good saves to keep out South Berks in the closing minutes but, at the end of the day, a 1-1 draw was probably the best that the Gondos deserved in a generally disappointing game. Hopefully, a better performance will be forthcoming - at home and in daylight - next week against a strong Oxford Hawkes team.