With a Win at the Olympic Park
The Olympic Park has hosted many a wondrous athlete in its time. Misty eyed recollections of glorious 2012 medals ensured that Hertford would not be searching for numbers for the fixture at the water based stadium.
Nearly every member (although unlikely to admit it) dreamed of roofing a drag flick and turning to the packed arena to celebrate with the adulation of the nation bestowed upon them
As this was a 'veterans' fixture it was also certain that at some time everyone would have also replaced 'sherwani' with their own surname and cried out 'where were the Germans, but frankly who cares'. With these rose tinted spectacles on, we decamped on the stadium and took in the surroundings, resplendent in our change kit that the first team utilise of shining white.
The only slight issue here was the first team are not quite as 'powerful' as our veterans outfit. There were any number of small size shirts left in the changing room as skipper Bentley decided that we didn't really want too many 'Hulk' impressions in front of the cameras. Before the first teamers start to scoff at how lean and trim they all are in comparison to ourselves, time waits for no man. And there are definitely a few chunky types waiting to burst through when they hit 40, if not before in some cases....
After a brief knock around on the hallowed turf, we were asked to vacate the pitch as the sprinklers blasted away and soaked the pitch. It also turns out that the opposition could quite easily have been nicknamed 'the gremlins' as after the water jets, their squad seemed to multiply. We were going to have to be on our game today playing a squad of at least 16!
Playing in a veterans team is an interesting thing to behold. Whereas on a Saturday, you may be considered the gnarly old pro in a second / third or fourth XI, you can be one of the spritely youngsters on a Sunday. As you tend to drift towards the rear of the park when you age gracefully, there is the opportunity to reclaim old glories by pushing yourself a bit further forward.
I've played with Matt Earle for over 20 years and to be honest, can't ever recall him leading the line. But lead the line he did on Sunday alongside Clive and did an excellent job of it.
All over the park we started extremely positively against what was clearly a decent outfit. The midfield hub of East London contained two players of rare quality and decent touch but Geoff and Howie shackled them excellently and then began to assume dominance as the half went on. Phil on the right hand side had far too much pace for his opposite number and this wasn't a case of just being a bit 'less slow', Phil would have probably roasted many a younger player and this was where our dominance turned into goals as Doug opened the scoring with a crisp, lifted strike.
Matt and Clive were causing plenty of problems for the East London back line that necessitated a reshuffle from their bench / cast of Annie. The resultant changes saw the opposition firm up considerably but after the introduction of mark voaden up front for Hertford, another great move and some excellent persistence from Jon Green saw the lead doubled.
Hertford really looked like they were enjoying the water based pitch which lead to some wonderful passing hockey at what is called the 'home of hockey'. Bearing in mind the poor showing of the men's GB squad in Rio, the pampered lottery funded stars could definitely have learned something from the stags. And so the excellence continued with a third before the break courtesy of Clive with a thoroughly well deserved strike past the East London custodian.
Half time saw a minor reshuffle but the intensity dropped slightly and East London opened their account with a well taken short corner. The pressure was now well and truly on and it felt like a crucial period in the match as the Hertford defence came under severe pressure. Geoff lead an excellent rearguard action alongside Tony, Howie and Steve but an injury to Simon placed further pressure on our back line. Then, Phil received a two minute sin bin for a spirited challenge that seemed a little harsh. Whilst the likes of Bolt, Ennis and Farah might capture the headlines, true Olympic spirit would have been witnessed if anyone had turned up as we held the tangerine tidal wave at bay. With Phil rejoining the fray and Hiskens replacing Dickie, Hertford reclaimed some possession and managed to force a couple of short corners. Then, finally, Hertford made the match safe as Clive bagged his second of the afternoon with an excellent finish.
There was still time for Hiskens to receive his first card for over ten years for an ever so slightly mistimed sliding tackle on the Aqua park. In my defence, I genuinely wanted to see how effective it could be sliding on the water based pitch. Not very, is the answer
A final penalty corner opportunity saw a slip to Hiskens who flicked it towards the top corner. A stunning save from the goaltender only saw a deflection to Jon Green who lifted it goalwards. Dependant on whom you ask, Mark then either stole a goal from Jon on the line, or made a miraculous above the head finish to a ball that was going wide. Whichever it was, let's all really remember the vicious Hiskens flick. Which you can do when you are writing the report yourself...
With all said and done, a great match at a wonderful venue and a post match meal of steak pie, roast potatoes, salad and gravy did the trick. A gracious and friendly opposition and good afternoon spent at the Olympic park. What's not to like
I'm not particularly close to the workings of this cup, but if it's anything like the FA cup, now that we are in the 3rd round, presumably this is where the 'big boys' from the national league appear. It will probably entice those players (Michael Hawes) who considered themselves too bigtime to turn up to the early rounds. Let's hope that those who made the effort to make the slog for those pre big TV covered ties aren't forgotten by the selectors....
There wasn't a man of the match vote so I've done my own
MOM - Phil. Constant thorn in the side of the opposition with his pace and skill
DOD - Hiskens. Leave the sliding tackles to Stuart Pearce in future...