Good Vets Hockey
Just came out second best
The Rustlers made the trip to East Grinstead weakened by the forced late withdrawal of Coops and Monty: when Fitty had the Friday night call up he assumed it was for the Super Vet's home match and was shocked to find he was away against a youthful EG! And they do seem to look younger each time we play them...!
We again adopted the 4, 2, 3, 1 formation designed to provide a solid defensive base, keep the ball and attack when opportunities present themselves. This worked beautifully with all the Rustlers following the game plan to the letter and EG becoming increasingly frustrated at their inability to convert possession into goal. We were perhaps fortunate not to concede when a rare defensive lapse allowed Payne through on goal, but Jack did very well to apply pressure and Payne fluffed his shot. We also had a few good chances but it was nil-nil at half time and a very positive feeling in the Reading camp!
EG started the second half poorly and provided us with a number of opportunities - we should have scored with a nice move that saw the ball go across the goal but we couldn't quite get on the end of it. We also had a pretty strong penalty stroke appeal denied by the lady umpire whose partner was the alleged stick tackler. As the half wore on we tired a little and EG's youth started to show - but even with a barrage of short corners they failed to score. It took a flukey, miscontrolled edge into the D and first time swing to finally beat Jack in goal with about 10 minutes left. The manner of EG's celebrations show just how hard they had found it to score, and making it difficult for the opposition to score has not been the Rustler's strongest point this season!!
EG then proceeded to live dangerously, passing poorly around the back and allowing us to apply pressure, but we couldn't quite pull the goal back in the remaining time. With less than a minute to play Cookers collected a yellow card for a short but vocal critique of the lady umpire and we will enjoy his yellow card jug in Jersey.
With slightly better fortune (and a little more even-handedness from slightly partisan umpires) a draw was certainly possible. A one nil loss under the circumstances was a tremendous result and this really was a fantastic all round team effort.
I won't single out any one player for particular praise as the real highlight of this game was how everyone in the team played their part. Rare to be pleased with a loss, but this was still a great Rustlers performance.
4 games left and a 6 point deficit to Surbiton in 4th place - so a play off slot looks challenging. That said, several of the teams above us play each other, and other than Surbiton our remaining games are against the three bottom clubs so with other results going our way perhaps we can scrape in?
In the meantime focus moves to the O50 Cup and the quarter final this coming Sunday away to Jersey.