The growing number of injuries reported from each game so far this season, together with the pre match instructions from Coventry, whetted the appetite for my first reporting assignment of the season. As a reminder, these instructions were as follows:
We currently have no Umpire, so we are going with 15 Players (Wilson J passed his Fitness Test) and Gear-Evans will stand down. Tullo will Captain the side.
Now comes the complicated stuff. I would suggest that Ahmed and Wilson J (Qualified Umpires – Level X) should do a half each and pay half the Match fee.
However, the complication is that Hampstead only have 11 Players and no Umpire and have asked us to provide one. So in that case we will employ the St Albans Umpiring Strategy. For those of you who were not there when we employed this a few years ago, it involves rolling umpires and a St Albans Goalie stomping off the pitch. I believe that with 3 players left on the bench we could Umpire and Sub from the near side easily enough.
So please make your self known to James if you are happy to umpire, or if you are “Subbed” be prepared to do some time umpiring. If you get injured or pull any muscles also be prepared to umpire. Anyone else not on the team sheet, please feel free to volunteer to umpire.
Fearing that this would mean the team having to master two sets of rolling subs without the help of conkers, which were not travelling from Coventry, I made the most of my drive on the 17th at Worplesdon on Friday, which landed amongst such a copious supply of conkers as to suggest that few other golfers had recently explored this particular part of the course. I was able to assemble the necessary two sets of conkers, one for players and one for umpires, including sufficient damaged ones to represent the limping wounded. However, Farrukh volunteered to umpire the whole match, and we are most grateful to Matt Brigden for umpiring as well, prior to his fast improving Ladies 1st XI sweeping aside Oxted 3-0 to put them in second place in their league.
Hampstead took the field with only 160 and 88, against our customary 1 and 15, but with an interesting variety of shirts – one yellow in goal, two blue and white squares, two white and the remaining 5 in their normal Hampstead shirts of white with vertical blue stripes. The numerically astute will have concluded, correctly, that Hampstead had only 10 men.
We started promisingly, with Ian and Mike combining to set up a chance for James whose shot was well saved, whilst at the other end Hampstead spurned a good chance after an attack down the right. However, half way through the first half we found ourselves down 0 – 2 as Hampstead converted their first two short corners within two minutes of each other, after controlling much of the play, helped it must be said by some poorly directed hits out of defence. Some excellent defensive work, especially by Max and Hugh, and saves from Eddie kept out some more dangerous looking attacks whilst Ian and Mike started to wear down their defence with a succession of rapid fire assaults. James’ last act before his hamstring intervened was to help set up our first goal for Ian with a deflected goal from a fine shot after an equally fine, mazy run. 1-2.
Soon afterwards, a Hampstead forward found himself near our goal at a narrow angle, with Eddie standing tall blocking his way. Spurning the subtlety of slipping a pass to his waiting colleague, a howitzer was launched straight at Eddie, which disappeared from view whilst causing great discomfort for Eddie, who slowly tottered off the back line with the ball still about his person, in an undisclosed location. The short corner decision contrasted with what the verdict would have been had the ball become similarly lodged about a batsman’s person, namely a dead ball, although as Eddie wandered slowly off the field waving a broken box we realised that the comparison was not wholly invalid. Jim was at hand to take over in goal, although there was a hiatus as he made his way, very slowly, to his car to collect a substitute box, and Hugh manfully filled the breach as kicking back, seeing off the short corner with a single to fine leg. Hugh make another fine save, picking up two runs to square leg with a brave, waist high pull shot, but two goals into an empty net left us trailing 1-4. There was then plenty of action at the other end as we decided that attack was the best form of defence. Ian and Mike were rampant, and well supported by a team apparently galvanised by adversity. Will and Clive covered much ground, both in support and in preventing counter-attacks, Philippe used his head to see off one attack (although not in a cerebral capacity), Nigel kept the crowd amused with some nifty footwork, although using his stick may have been the better option, and we put together more passes than we had managed earlier. After 5 successive attempts at goal had been frustrated by some fine keeping, Mike got a goal back from the resulting short corner to make it 2-4 at half time. Our spirits were lifted not only by this fight back but by the sight of a fully equipped Jim, and there was half time talk of “we can do this”.
The second half saw a continuation of the spirit shown at the end of the first half, as Ian and Mike realised that Hampstead had no answer to their speed and stickwork, and it was a tribute to their fitness that they kept up the pace for the whole half. A neat flick from Mike found Will flicking at goal, and Mike netted the rebound to bring us back to 3-4. Philippe, evidently trained by Nigel, was a credit to the entertainment industry as he first gave a demonstration of lacrosse technique, and followed up by using a full half’s allowance of stickwork and running in one fluid move down the left before laying the ball off to Will for a well deserved rest. He seemed slightly disappointed when Will decided that the best option was a return through ball down the left for Philippe to run onto, his noble effort ending in a tangle of arms and legs as he collapsed across the back line with the ball safely off the back line.
Our equaliser came from a most obliging, gentle pass from a Hampstead defender straight to Ian inside their 22. Had I been a Hampstead player, Ian would not have been my choice of the person to present with the ball in this situation. His one-two with Mike left the Hampstead goalie floundering, and Ian flicking into an empty net to bring us level at 4-4.
The closing minutes brought some close shaves at each end, a further entry into the slapstick world of comedy as Max suddenly sat down mid attack, some good defending notably by Hugh and Charles, whose investment in a new stick after last week’s break paid back immediate dividends although there had been some signs that his new stick may be a different length from his old one, and some good work wide out as Roger on the right and John on the left made use of the space left when the Hampstead 10 tired of chasing Aussies.
The bar saw an uncomfortable moment when news reached Roger that there was no beer, although his move to adjourn to the pub met with a tired lack of response as the choice of lager or Guinness seemed bearable to most, and another excellent lunch calmed the nerves.
I do not remember a single moment of dissent in a game which was played in excellent spirit and which was very well umpired, so many thanks to Farrukh and Matt and congratulations to all players from both sides.
Sunday saw an unlucky 0-1 defeat by the men’s 1st XI, who sit in mid table having won 3 and lost 3 games, although some interesting new ground was broken when it emerged that there were two jobs on display which I had not seen before. Mike Rose found himself appointed as the mandatory Crowd Control Officer, whose job spec includes counting the crowd – I am pleased to report that he had no trouble with Will, Farrukh or me – and on it being pointed out to me, I was able to observe that the official “Observer” was himself being observed, which perhaps made me, temporarily, the Observer’s Observer’s observer (small “o” as my observation was not in an official capacity).