With the international break upon us, and “National Non-League” day taking the limelight, I was excited to find a local match where I could enjoy the spotlight being on the lower leagues for a change. This was, sadly, not to be the case though. Having spent many a weekend watching my girlfriend play hockey when we were initially dating, she seems to have got the impression this is the sort of thing I’ll do semi-regularly.
I have managed to dodge this proverbial bullet on most occasions, but on the weekend after her birthday, it was too perilous to turn down. So, not only would I spend my afternoon watching Teddington Ladies’ 1s against Maidenhead in the SCHA Division 1, I was encouraged to sweeten the deal by taking photos.
Teddington Ladies (and I believe, the remainder of the club’s approximately 427 teams) play their matches at Teddington School. Formed in 1871, they claim to be “The Oldest Hockey Club In The World”. Whilst I haven’t done the research personally to support this claim, it certainly seems feasible.
Now, I don’t profess to know much about hockey, so the “match report” I’m going to produce is going to be much abridged compared to my usual efforts, and is going to be more of a vehicle for the photos. I do, however, know that they call kick off “push back”. And that happened at 1330.
Maidenhead started out the better of the two sides, and for the opening five minutes, it looked as though this was going to be a long afternoon for the women in pink. This season’s Teddy side is a very different proposition to the last two seasons though, and having weathered the early storm, they began to dominate the first half. In particular, goalkeeper Lindsay Brown’s improvised save with her shoulder was impressive.
In their first surge upfield, a long ball by right back (I assume they use the same positional names as football?) Zoe Hadrill caused trouble in the D, resulting in a short corner. Short of a penalty flick, or penalty kick in football, a short corner is possibly the most disproportionately punishing penalty in sport – the amount of goals that result from a short corner is staggering, particularly as the standard rises.
The short corner came in, and captain Harriet Caruana went for a drag flick. Despite Maidenhead’s defender valiantly attempting to kick the ball clear, the recognisable slap of concrete ball on wood signalled the first goal. 1-0 to Teddington after eight minutes.
From here on the first 35 minutes were all Teddington. Whether the goal had sapped Maidenhead’s confidence, or given Teddington a shot in the arm is difficult to say, but it certainly brought about a change in tempo. The Teddy Ladies were assured in possession, passing the ball out well from the back, in particular Liv Martineau, who would go on to win Man of the Match on the back of her distribution from defence.
Given their dominance in the first half, Teddington will perhaps have been disappointed to go in only two goals ahead at half time. Their second came on 24 minutes, when the impressive Ally Oliver bustled through the middle of the D. She beat the ‘keeper and the ball squirmed its way to Rasna Sandhu. She got a scuffed contact on it, and despite the backspin making it look as though the ball didn’t cross the line, it definitely did, and Teddington doubled their lead.
A good chance for a third was missed when Charlotte Elms found herself through on goal with only the goalie to beat. Usually clinical in front of the net, she possibly had too much time to think, and ended up slamming the shot wide.
I would point out at this juncture, that photographing at a hockey match is a potentially injurious way to spend one’s time. Focusing through an eyepiece and lens, it is difficult to maintain awareness of the ball whirring towards you at times, leaving you at risk of injury, but more importantly, looking like an absolute spooner when trying to get out of the way last minute.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with Maidenhead looking to establish some pressure. Again, Teddington weathered the storm, and then came back into it. Early in the second half saw the moment Head Coach Colin Huet secured his Dick of the Day award. When Hadrill fouled an opposing player, and (kindly), tried to return the ball, Colin wasn’t best pleased. Preferring his defender to get back into position, his Irish brogue rang out across the pitch “you can make her a cup of tea after the match, but get back to position”. If the message was valid, it wasn’t, perhaps, the coolest way of conveying it.
The second half also saw Teddington score their third goal in the 47th minute, and again, it was their skipper finishing it. After winning the short corner on the right, by slipping the ball against a defender’s foot, she lined up another drag flick. Expertly found by Charlotte Elms pass, and the stop by Zoe Hadrill, she flicked her second of the match.
Shortly after this, a few Maidenhead tempers began to fray. The odd push here and there, and a potential headbutt/body check in the face of Hannah Maisey resulted in a response from Teddington’s Dutch striker, Lotte van Rooij. When grabbed by an opposition player, van Rooij shot out a palm (some say fist) to shove the offending lady away, whilst the supporters were treated to an audible “Fuck off” with a delightful Dutch twang.
Both sides created chances as the game wound to a conclusion. Tired legs and tired minds caused gaps to open up in both defences. A shot by Ally Oliver smashed into the arm of attacker Melissa Long, which saw her substituted. Minutes later, Rasna Sandhu was on the floor after a blow to the head.
On 66 minutes, Maidenhead got a goal their performance just about deserved, and again it came in the form of a short corner. Frankly, after 66 minutes of watching a sport I don’t really understand, I wasn’t paying attention anymore, so my description of the goal will be limited to this: it happened.
I will add, though, that defending a short corner is potentially the ballsiest move in sport. Rushing from the goal with only a desultory piece of plastic to protect your face is utterly absurd, and to be honest speaks to the mental state of those who play this baffling game. Watching five foolhardy idiots hope to get their bodies in the way of a flying ball of rock is quite reaffirming of one’s own sanity.
On the final whistle, Teddington could be pleased with their day’s work and the precious three points (you do get three points for a win in hockey, right?) earned. It would be unfair to single out individual performances, as everyone on the pitch in pink put in a good shift. From Lindsay Brown in goal, through to Lucy Peel up front, every player contributed to the win.