Saturday 3rd February 2018, 1200 “Push Back”
Brighton & Hove HC Women’s 1s vs Teddington HC Ladies’ 1s
As the alarm went off at 0800 on a dreary Saturday morning, notifying my significantly better half that it was time to start getting ready, I sleepily asked to be woken up again at 0845. So, naturally, at 0901, I heard from the hallway:
“Are you getting up to come to hockey or not?” Brilliant. Thanks for the gentle, and time appropriate, wake up. With 29 minutes until the much anticipated departure for Brighton, I rushed to get ready. We jumped in the car, and via a Sausage & Egg McMuffin Meal pit stop, made our way to the M23, and eventually to the South coast, in the pissing down rain.
Now, I make no bones about it, I’m not a hockey fan – I don’t understand it, and every time I see someone swing a stick at head height I wince, and wonder aloud at just how much of a burden to the NHS it would be to include thinking hockey is a good idea as a sectionable act. That said, it is still sport – and a very energetic and tactical sport at that, so I can appreciate it. An early afternoon spent watching it, is perfectly tolerable. However, if there’s one thing that will turn me off, it’s shivering beside an astroturf, with the heavens open, colder than Edmund Hillary’s ice bucket.
Looking at today’s game, Teddington are having a good season. Up until two weeks ago they were sitting pretty in second, and with first placed Surbiton 2s ineligible for promotion, Teddies were on course for a second successive promotion, to the Investec Conference East. Unfortunately, two successive defeats to Maidenhead and Horsham have seen them fall off the pace somewhat, and they arrive in Brighton desperate to reenergise their promotion campaign. Down to 4th, but with a game in hand, today would be an ideal time to get back to winning ways, facing a Brighton side four places below them.
Manager Colin Huet set out a strong Teddington side, and they started the brighter of the two teams. Despite that, the first half (and indeed the match) was one of few chances. Both sides huffed and puffed, and the match ebbed and flowed nicely, but neither team could find the critical pass in the final third.
With both defences looking solid (including Hannah Maisey, after a last minute, dick of the day-worthy dash to make push back), it was difficult to see where the break through might come. In fact, considering the halves only last 35 minutes, having to wait until 22 minutes for the first shot on goal was actually pretty exhausting. However, eventually it came, and it came from Charlotte Elms.
Some nice, crisp passing saw Teddington move the ball up the pitch, until Aimee Byrne picked out the final pass and found the forward. Elms, turned on the ball and got a shot away from just inside the ‘D’, but it deflected wide. Obviously the umpire gave the ball to the home side for a goal kick (or whatever you call it in hockey), because, well, why wouldn’t you.
In fact, this was one of a number of somewhat myopic decisions by the umpires, who had clearly decided that feet were extensions of sticks, and so neglected to award about five short corners to Teddington throughout the match. There were only two short corners in the first half, the first falling to Teddies – jarringly wearing white for today’s match. Harriet Caruana’s drag flick was blocked on its way towards goal. Shortly after, Brighton received a short corner of their own, and looked certain to score, until Donna Smith got a vital goal saving block, diverting the ball behind for a long corner. From the resulting corner, Lindsay Brown made a good stop high to her right.
Just before the half time whistle went, Brighton and Hove took the lead, very much against the run of play. A loose pass was seized upon by the home side, who worked a neat two v one, and slipped the ball past Brown in goal.
The second half was played in much the same vein, with Teddington creating most of the running and enjoying the bulk of possession. As the match wore on, and Brighton potentially tired, it looked more and more likely that Teddies would get level. However, the home side still threatened on the break, and some crucial interventions by Kayle Dolpire, Sam Maisey and Zoe Hadrill kept Teddington in reach.
After 39 minutes, Annabel Lamb very nearly got a debut goal, but was just unable to reach the ball when Lotte van Rooij burst down the right and centred the ball. Watching Lamb stretch for the ball was reminiscent of seeing Gazza desperately lunging to meet that cross against Germany in Euro ’96. Not cool.
It was during the second half that two of the more experienced players on the team came to the fore, with captain Harriet Caruana, and right back Zoe Hadrill driving on their teammates and getting involved in seemingly every move – both defensively and offensively.
With the likes of Lucy Peel, Rasna Sandhu and Charlotte Elms looking to dribble the ball up through the midfield, Teddington made a concerted effort to drive hard into the ‘D’, forcing Brighton to make tackles. This tactic paid off as Teddington were (finally!) awarded another short corner in the 57th minute, and used it to draw level. Elms pulled the ball back perfectly, where it was stopped for Caruana to drag flick. She fired home, to level the scores, and bag her 10th goal of the season.
Teddington continued to apply pressure and search for the win, and Lotte van Rooij nearly got the breakthough with five to play. Slipped through on goal, the Brighton ‘keeper was out quickly to close down the angle, and van Rooij was unable to lift her shot over and into the goal.
So one all the final score, and whilst Teddington certainly deserved more from the game, they’ll be pleased to have ended their short losing run.