Either this report has been delayed due to the need to take legal advice or I have only just got round to it. No 15 (James) will be relieved that it comes without 17 mb of pictures which put his inbox into a critical condition after the last report.
Alex Chiang kindly came out of a 2 year retirement to allow us to scrape together 11 players, but only 9 of these had made it onto the pitch within the 48 seconds which it took Surbiton to take the lead through a snap shot from Rowley. Your correspondent had not even yet noted down the Surbiton numbers, which it transpired were 1, 4, 7, 12, 14, 16, 17, 29, 30 and 32. We missed the elegance of Suresh’s matching numbered shorts and shirt which had graced recent encounters.
It took a while for a full strength Rogues to settle, the early threat coming from sporadic attacks from Ian, playing his first game for three weeks after a nasty bug had laid him low, Alex (playing up front) and James (playing nominally centre half, but actually everywhere as he sensed the chance to cover a greater distance than Ian). Surbiton played a more settled pattern and threatened to extend their lead, but after 15 minutes we began to take what looked like control as we used Phil to good effect at right half. Phil, Rob and Roger N on the right combined well with Alex to set up several good chances, whilst Roger G-E marauded sporadically on the left wing. Ian came close with a shot and we forced a succession of corners. However, the Coventry think tank had had a quiet week, short corner conkers were a notable absentee and we had only 4 players accompanying the injectee at the top of the circle. It was not until our 5th corner that we tried a new tactic, a shot on goal, but this was well saved.
The end of the half saw the introduction of Hugo, who immediately offered Chris Pitt the benefit of his opinions as to how Chris could improve his umpiring. Chris had other things on his mind with the goings on this week at Tate Modern, where Vladimir Umanets had attributed his attempt to improve Rothko’s painting to what he described as yellowism, which, as part of an explanation which made Eric Cantona seem lucid, he described as neither art nor anti-art. We, of course, know that Chris invented yellowism, and until Umanets appreciates the need to top his yellowism with redism he will never match Chris’s sartorial impact. Mike Beaney, with the other whistle, lacked the cutting edge with his effort at faded greenism. Hugo, meanwhile, maintained that he was neither umpire nor anti-umpire, despite first impressions.
The second half saw Rowley use the friendly push back to the opposition as a chance to sharpen his shooting practice as he fired the ball off our end of the pitch, but invited to have a second go found a hit which we could stop. We did not capture the dominance of the previous 20 minutes, as lack of legs and puff hampered our style, which was too reliant on running and lacked shape, and Surbiton were generally the more convincing side, as well as probably younger and with 13 players. It was not a great surprise when Rowley scored a second after 12 minutes with a fine, opportunistic shot from the top of the circle. Surbiton continued to look marginally the stronger side in an evenly fought contest, as our attacking options often saw us heavily outnumbered with one or two strikers marked by four or five defenders. Surbiton were easily the more voluble and did not shrink from letting the umpires know their views, and your correspondent was in some ways relieved that three deliberate stops with the back of the stick and one deliberate interference with an attempted Rogues “self pass” did not receive the yellow cards which they would have merited at a higher level of the game, as the Press Box would then have become unbearably noisy. I heard no complaints from Surbiton about these deliberate offences being missed.
Eddie made some good saves, Hugh made a goal line save whilst John used all his 50 years experience at the club to keep the final score to 0-2. It was a good, if noisy, game of hockey on a pleasant afternoon. Our play was very much better than it had been a fortnight earlier against Eastcote, and I am told very much better than last week against Southgate. On the overall balance of play, number of short corners and number of chances on goal the two sides were very evenly matched. Availability is clearly a key issue, especially since the league has split and our oppositions will tend to be consistently at the stronger end of the spectrum.
On Sunday our mens 1st XI drew 2-2 with Oxted in a game which was of a noticeably higher quality than games in the South Premier had been. We are worth watching. It was also a great pleasure to see so many other games being played throughout the afternoon by various Richmond junior teams. We now have junior training on Sunday mornings and junior matches on Sunday afternoons, for which we regularly hire additional pitches at other venues, such is the demand. The atmosphere was similar to being at a hockey festival.
This Saturday, our first XI are playing Cambridge City at home at 1pm and they really appreciate the support which they are receiving. With our game at 10am, the timing is perfect for those who are able to stay on for a spot of curry and claret with Spencer before seeing the game as it is played today at a high level.
Thanks to Club President Mike Barford for preparing this match report.