We travelled to Harrogate for fixtures against local rivals, Wakefield, Bradford and Doncaster with a squad of 14 players. Although the weather was cold and windy, we were spared the rain/sleet that other squads and training at Slazenger encountered.
Squad:Aidan Hopkinson, Alex King, Isaac Fisher (Capt), James Higgins, Luke Gueli, Matthew Feather, Ralph Toon (GK), Robert Cann, Rowan Tejura, Tom Pitchforth, Matthew Stacey, Jack Garside, Mayank Gupta & Ben Stevenson
Slazenger (4) vs. (0) Wakefield
Wakefield had a large squad with some strong individual players, however, Slazenger quickly took control of the mid field with the effect that most of the game was played inside the Wakefield half. Early pressure was rewarded when Robert Cann, well positioned in the ‘D’, picked up a rebound from a Matthew Stacey cross to strike home. Five minutes later Isaac Fisher’s well struck shot came back off the post and was bungled away by the defence. Isaac also had a goal disallowed, being judged to be a high shot from a penalty corner.
The relentless Slazenger pressure was rewarded again after 16 minutes when Tom Pitchforth finished off a good passing move between Aidan Hopkinson & Isaac Fisher and again on 20 minutes when Luke recycled a half cleared penalty corner for Matthew Stacey to tip home.At 3 – 0 Wakefield did manage a couple of break away attacks which were dealt with by the full backs, Matthew Feather & James Higgins with the help of Ralph Toon in goal.
The final goal came in the last minute when Alex King, playing at inside left placed a very intelligent pass back out to Aidan Hopkinson on the top of the ‘D’, who had plenty of time to get a strong shot away through the mass of Wakefield defenders.A great start to the day, especially as the newer members of the squad were able to take part and contribute to the win.
Slazenger (2) vs. (0) Bradford
Bradford were short of players so borrowed from Wakefield, however, they had a number for JAC players in their team. However, Slazenger got the best possible start when their central midfielder showed too much off the ball to Isaac Fisher straight from the push back. Isaac won the ball just inside the Bradford half and carried it through the defence to score a great solo goal.Just a minute later Slazenger went two up with another Matthew Stacey goal.Bradford then managed to steady themselves and absorbed a lot of Slazenger pressure. We also took the opportunity to get our newer team members onto the pitch, allowing us to rest players for the Doncaster match immediately afterwards. We were even able to loan Mayank Gupta to play (rather too well!) for Bradford against his own team.With the sides now more evenly matched, the rest of the game saw several chances at both ends but no more goals.
Slazenger (2) vs. (0) Doncaster
Playing a strong Doncaster side who had also won twice on the day and without a break was not ideal, but our boys dug deep and really stepped up to the challenge. They also displayed some of the best team play that I have seen for many years, running into space and moving the ball easily. We did not have things all our own way as Doncaster mounted several strong attack, mostly straight down the middle and focused on a single HIPAC player which brought outstanding saves from Ralph Toon in goal.
After 10 minutes Slazenger mounted a strong attack down the left wing which was being defended well by Doncaster when the ball was passed back to Rowan Tejura at left half (90°) who passed the width of the field to pick out right half Luke Gueli in space. Luke kept his composure to drive into the ‘D’ and get a strong shot away which beat all the defenders and the keeper.The teams continued to be evenly matched and it was good to see Slazenger defending as a unit and mounting attacks down both flanks.
It was from one of these attacks on the right that Matthew Stacey’s cross from inside the ‘D’ was turned in his own goal by a Doncaster defender. The presence of Robert Cann on the defenders shoulder no doubt contributed to the goal. Slazenger could have scored a third when the second of three penalty corners after the final whistle was stopped despite Isaac Fisher being clear on the ball just 1.5 meters from the goal line.
Overall, a fantastic morning of hockey, complimenting similar good results from U16 Girls & U12 Boys. Slazenger played well as a team and improved as the day went on, mainly by passing earlier. The quality of our play was also recognized by two of the other team coaches.
Player of the Tournament was Ralph Toon who, despite long period of inactivity in the first two games was up to the challenge, making a couple of saves early in the last game which undoubtedly changed the course of the game.
Most Improved Player was Robert Cann, who worked hard at inside forward and was always well placed to receive a pass, even in a very crowded ‘D’. Thanks to our regular travelling army of supporters who could be heard above any other supporters and John Toon for umpiring and helping on the sidelines. Our next tournament is just 2 weeks away on 18th December.