Disappointing Draw with Richmond
Play offs still within our grasp
Saturday saw the Rustlers slip to a disappointing 3-3 draw against a motivated Richmond fighting relegation. Having led 3-1 at halftime we suffered a number of injuries and a loss of shape to ship a couple of soft goals. At the other end we had many, many chances – some of which appeared to be easier to score than miss – so in the end we were masters of our own downfall. Needing to win all three of our remaining games to make the play offs this draw felt like a loss. We were later heartened to hear that OGs had lost, which means wins against Surbiton this Saturday and Maidenhead the following Wednesday will see us through to the play offs. (Please see below regarding availability).
On Sunday the O50 cuppers made the long trip to Harleston for the semi-final – the one advantage of playing in another time zone was that the weather was fabulous despite a forecast predicting continuous rain. With a strong squad we were always favourites and Harleston set out their stall early on, playing half court when we were in possession and relying on a punt or aerial ball to a lone striker as their only tactic going forwards. A water based pitch allowed us to play a nice, flowing game and dominate possession, with Don Williams finding the net early on. Despite a packed defence we penetrating the D regularly and forced a number of short corners: Rob Thompson struck sweetly to make it 2-0 at half time.
In the second half Rob added his second from another short corner and Fitty overcame a Premier League hangover to slot one home from 6 inches to make it 4-0. The game opened up a little late on – with the game well won we eased up slightly and Harleston kept trying – at one of their very few short corners the first shot was well blocked by No 1 runner Simon C, but unfortunately the ball dropped behind our two runners and the hosts were able to get a consolation goal.
This classy 4-1 win sees us through to the final at Lea Valley on 29 April versus old foes Ben Rhydding – and the opportunity to avenge last year’s quarter final defeat. The game was for the most part an exhibition of masters hockey – keeping possession, playing the ball patiently around the back and biding our time before moving decisively through the half court press. Lovely to watch.
Top marks to Harleston for the post-match tea – hot meal and a hot pudding(!), although they lost a lot of points for having no bitter available in the bar. Hugh W, having memorised the entire CAMRA guide, identified a proper watering hole on the way home.
Thanks once again to all those who played in previous rounds to help get us to the final.
With the final not until the end of April we need to continue have some hockey, so it is important that win our last two Rustlers games to make the League 1 play offs.
If you have not already done so, please would you confirm availability:
Sat 18 March:
Rustlers v Surbiton away at 2pm,
Supervets v Old Cranleighans away (1.30pm)
Wed 22 March:
Rustlers v Maidenhead – 7pm at Reading on the water.