It’s safe to say that Autumn has definitely arrived, or so it felt outside my house waiting for Cousin Ally to arrive. And thanks to some aggressive driving against some Chelsea/Clifton tractors, arrive she did. Even if it would have been sooner had she listened to Em’s traffic bulletin 2hrs previously, but enough of that. We made it to Coombe Dingle with plenty of time to spare and joined the rest of the team who were vaguely more punctual. That said, it turns out punctuality isn’t everything, and if Sophie had spent a little more time packing her kit instead of rushing to the pitch, she might have remembered her pants! Fortunately Nat came to the rescue with some spare Lycra and the players and spectators were spared the potential surprise viewing of what Sophie herself described as ‘an experiment into how hairy it can get’… We had to revive Claire who fainted in horror at this description, but by the time the umpires wanted to get the game underway, we had a full complement of suitably modestly dressed players on the pitch and were ready to go.
So, the match… Westberries had first pushback, and some of Pat’s training must have sunk in because we pressed them hard, and executed some silky 1-2-style passing throughout much of the first half. We closed down their 16 hit outs successfully, forcing their defenders to take an aaaaaaaaaage to decide where to send the ball, and applied plenty of pressure in Westberries’ D. Thanks to the advice of OBs 4’s newly discovered attacking talent Al Brearley, and from temporarily injury side lined Kelly (man-up and get back on the pitch) on the bench, C’sin Ally had some newfound confidence in her upfront positional play; and as a result, her hanging high gave our midfield and forwards a useful outlet in our attack. Aimz and Hope were able to play off each other and Ally on multiple occasions pushing down the left, sending the ball into Sam and Grace in the D, and we were unlucky to just miss the target on more than one occasion. We managed to convert the offensive pressure into several penalty corners, and before half-time, Sam swept one in from the top of the D to hit the keeper just below the knee and pop into the goal. Knowle didn’t have it all their own way though, and some speedy Westberries players did catch us on the break once or twice. The midfield were caught napping/ambling occasionally (or rolling on the floor in my case – umpire Ju only awarded me a 6 for my diving efforts though, so that’s something that Italian coach of our’s ought to be able to help me improve on next time) and a bit slow to get back. However, Soph, Sue, Nat and Kate provided a solid defensive unit between them to keep cherry and navies at bay. Bry made a cracking stop from their only real on-target chance, chesting the ball down and away from the line, and she ensured everything else they poked in the general direction of the goal was sent the right side of the posts. And after 35mins, the whistle blew for half-time.
We were awarded a slightly longer than average half-time break, while umpire Ju dashed back to the clubhouse for a wee. Captain Sue reminded us we aren’t playing in a library, so it’s okay to talk to each other, and sent us back on to the pitch threatening to shout at us lots in the second half. Fortunately for our ears, she mostly let her hockey do the talking, strengthening our offensive efforts by ‘defending’ on the edge of Westberries circle (my most favourite defensive position). We continued to pen them in their own 23, and made them really work to get the ball out. Nat and Em worked really  well together to stop Westberries pushing down the their right wing, and while Saz and I kept the middle tidy, and Ella and Claire did some great hassling on our right to disrupt the opposition’s play. Essentially, we did pretty good. Sue, Saz and Claire kept feeding the ball in, and Ally, Grace, Hope and Sam all came close to upping our goal tally from open play. We were gifted a glut of short corners thanks to the not-entirely-clinical tackling of Westberries’ defence, and Sam sent another one home in a pretty similar fashion to the first though without the goal keeper’s assist. Then Grace snuck a final touch somewhere to make it three, and 3-0 is how we finished.
So I am delighted to report we finish the weekend with a points tally of 10, goal difference of +13, and PoM went to Hope and I. In terms of what went well, we played a good passing game (well, mostly, eh Cuz), and did a great job of closing down defensive hit outs. It would be even better if we release the ball a smidgen sooner, and (especially against a physical side like this lot and Lodway), stand our ground and really want the ball. Win the 50-50 ball!! Grrrrrrrrrrr!! But on the whole, well played all – high-fives all round.