We arrived at a wind-swept pitch in Northampton to be advised by the umpires that the wind was rocking the goals and didn’t seem like relenting anytime soon. We took shelter in their changing rooms as the team assembled before heading out for a short warm up. So cold were the conditions that even Shirley resorted to full base layer of top and tights in a fetching combo.
Wootton hadn’t lost all season with an impressive goal difference of +31 versus Hawks' +19. The Magnificents travelled with 15 players and a strong line up comprising…
Hack/ Shirley/ Image sharing the back line.
Stoker/ Burroughs/ Sri/ Raynor sharing half back roles
Dolly/ Volans/ Venables/ Graham forming the diamond
Francis/ Webb/ Elliott sharing the front line
Chief supporter from last week, Rob Breen, provided some mid-week words of wisdom…keep Sam V playing deeper, pass out wide, keep possession…in the howling wind everyone just wanted to get on with the game and we knew it was going to be a tough task, especially on a sandy pitch that resembled to Gobi desert.
Hawks started brightly, moving the ball wide left and right. Francis and Elliott picking up the ball and delivering back to Dolly. We made a couple of moves into the D and secured the 1st short corner which Venables failed to do much with. The game flowed well with Dolly and Volans marshalling the midfield and competing hard. In the end the first goal went to Wootton. Hawks were undone by a through ball to their centre forward who entered the D managed a reverse sweep into the back board. This felt pretty tough when we had otherwise defended well. Hawks secured a further short corner and this time Shirley took control and found the back board with a hard sot to the LHS of the keeper. We stuck to task and played out wide to Graham, Burroughs and Venables but we frequently found the forwards too late with passes intercepted or otherwise gifted. Wootton then secured their own short corner and a coolly taken drag flick beat Leo to his RHS (we don’t get many of these in the 7’s…). 2-1 at half time felt like we had a chance.
In the second half we seemed to click more despite playing into the northerly wind. We defended deeper but also found more space out wide and Dolly started to run with the ball connecting in with James B effectively. Early in the second half we got found out in defence and Dolly failed to retreat 5 from an attacking move. The resulting short corner saw a slick passing move from Wotton to make it 3-1. To Wootton’s surprise we managed a great bit of interplay with Dolly finding Elliott who took the ball into the D from the right and slotted home with power. At 3-2 we felt we had a chance and Wootton seemed to get a bit rattled. Sam V became a menace with his long reach and frequently stole the ball and Francis challenged got engaged in some all-in wrestling with a defender which earnt him a yellow. Wootton started to change tactics and launched aerial balls over the midfield to their awaiting attackers and Hawks defenders got caught out for failing to move away from the receiver. Not to be outdone Stoker employed one of his own reverse scoop aerials spectacularly launching the ball right out of the park. One Wootton aerial ball reached their centre forward and despite Hawks protestation of an illegal foot he controlled the ball, entered the D and made it 4-2, which was the final score.
Despite the loss, we retain 2nd position in the league and came away agreeing we had played some of our best hockey and despite the cold it had been a good game which was well umpired by Wootton. The afternoon got better with sausage and chip butties and a pint in the local pub. Great also to see Elliott bag another to keep his goal scoring run continue….Man of the Match goes to Dolly for his constant work rate with Shirley a close second for robust defending and goal but would otherwise have got the accolade were it not for the tights... Here’s to 2022…