Old Loughts 'Willows 2' 4 - 1 Hertford VI
By Geoff Oates
One last match report, and some reflections on a very happy season
Having no league game on the 23rd, we took the opportunity to go travelling outside our regular quadrant boundaries again, into deepest Essex for a game with Old Loughts ‘Willows 2’, newly crowned champions of SE Div 10.
In fact both sides fielded rather experimental teams, OL has a collection of youngsters and graduates from their latest ’back to hockey’ program, we fielded five of next season’s Academy hopefuls, and along with Adam Locker and Richard Churchill that probably gave us the lowest average age we’ve ever mustered. Chris Dean and Luke Godwin gave us a bit of pace in midfield, and Jon, Tony and I all took a turn in the diamond; luckily the game was played at a pace we could just about cope with. The new lads all did a great job, Zac and Tom carrying the attack with composure and creativity, Will and Cormac worked hard for the ball in the wide midfield spots, Jack pulled off some stunning saves to keep us in the game after an early goal went against us.
We had a few spells when the passing went completely to pot, and the marking went awol, but much of the time we played very sweetly. Some lovely strings of passes, brisk movement from defence to attack, using both wings and keeping up good sustained pressure around the opposition D. There was very little between the sides in open play, in fact we looked well on top for a long stretch of the first half, but they had a nippy and gifted Sikh lad on the left wing that our aging defence couldn’t quite keep up with, and his brilliant finishing decided the game, with two in each half. Chris Dean’s nicely taken goal in the dying moments at least made the final score a fairer reflection of a good, competitive match.
So we end our 4th season as Hertford 6s. It was a slight disappointment that we slipped down to 8th in the league as Bedford won their final game, but with 8 wins and 3 draws on the pitch from 20 games (disregarding the awarding of the Berkhamsted game when the Stags had to cancel) this was our most successful season so far. A win, 2 draws and 2 defeats from our friendlies was also a big improvement on past seasons, and it made a nice change to take in Brentford, Braintree, South Cambridge and Old Loughts on our travels instead of endless trips up the A1 in the league.
We used 44 players (a record for the 6s but paling against the 57 the 5s used back in 2013-2014), and no fewer than 9 different keepers! Between them they gave us 7 clean sheets (easily a record) and made a big contribution to our much vaunted positive goal difference for the league season. Have to admit it though, the back 4 are getting older, and with club numbers thinner this year we often had an unbalanced look. The team sheet often listed 9 veteran defenders.
We lost Dave Harding to the 4s back in October, shortly followed by Aodhan, and had to lend them Graham White a few times too, but with Andy Benson coming along whenever he could, Daryl regularly available after Christmas and Ian Rawlinson running rings round everyone, we had a midfield unit that could trouble anyone. Adam Sutherland rejoined the side , and Luke Godwin and Chris Dean gave us pace and sparkle whenever they could join us. Adam Locker and Richard Churchill, our surviving 'juniors', made good progress as the season went on. Daryl takes the golden hockey stick with 9 strikes (matching the record shared by Dave Harding and George Lynn in 2014/15), followed by Chris Dean on 5 (from 7 appearances), Ian Rawlinson (5), Luke (4) and Adam Sutherland (4). Chris Dean now leads the 6th team all time list with 20.
Highlights of the season? Coming back from 5 - 2 in the last 10 minutes to draw against St Albans. Fighting back from 3 - 0 at half time against league leaders West Herts (who had scored 23 in the two previous games) to snatch a 3 - 3 draw. Mugging Shefford and Sandy with an innovative formation when we really had 9 full backs and only 1 sub. Turning out in strength on a miserable, wet, dark, freezing mid-December afternoon for a friendly against Southgate Adelaide, because that's what we do on Saturdays.
But best of all playing in friendly, sporting but highly competitive league where 16 out of 20 games were drawn or settled by the odd goal, and our heaviest defeat was just 3 - 1. Thanks to everyone who contributed this year, have a restful and sunlit summer, and please come back and do it all again in September.