Veni, Vedi, Vici
Cracking away win
With the Redsox fixture cancelled, out of the entire Rustlers/Redsox roster and, after herculean efforts by Barty, a mere 11 players made themselves available for the long trip to Tulse Hill. And that included Rav, who selflessly doubled up to play at both Sevenoaks and TH, and to whom both teams are massively grateful!
Half term, Injuries, rugby at Twickenham, needing to be back for fireworks, dog eating the homework etc. all played their part, but it was really disappointing that Barty had such difficulty raising a side and as a group we really should make his life easier.
So, just 11 players, Tulse Hill away, drag flick specialist waiting for us…. an afternoon to be endured, got through, damage limited… with Barty commenting ‘if you can hold them to a 2-2 draw that would be a great result and we’ll take 3 points from them on the return fixture when they can’t be bothered to come to us.’ We shambled up with no-one on the bench. They had a full squad of 16 and an intensive warm up with 4 aside drills.
Our 11 men, however, were not just any 11. These were bold, fearless men. Men with purpose. Men with resolve. Rustlers, one and all.
These were men who retained the ball and played the type of hockey from which Rustler’s reputation was forged. The type of hockey demonstrated by Dodds, Shaw, Thompson and Williams in their Masters’ prime. And so it was that 10 minutes into the game, a shell shocked TH were 2-0 down and had barely touched the ball.
I would love to be able recount in detail how each goal played out, how the score evolved and so on – but the truth is far too much happened and I was still nursing a hangover. Despite their relative youth, TH simply could not cope with the superb teamwork, movement and passing that we displayed. We also endured one of the umpires who was incredibly strict in his interpretation when there was an alleged offence by a player in blue, but laissez-faire when it was red/green.
The defence of Brad, Dom, Andy and Hoops was solid and coped beautifully with fast forwards and midfield – and to our credit conceded (and successfully defended) just 2 corners. Rav, almost jet-lagged from his travels, pulled off some great saves and probably had a quieter afternoon that he might have expected. I think it was 4-2 at half time – one of their goals was a fluky deflection off my stick on a cross going away from goal, and the other as a result of a foul up the pitch not being given.
The midfield of Terry, Rippo and Ben Major bossed it and our front line of Tim, Steve B and Soma were in imperious form, making fabulous leads (well perhaps not Soma – but I remain in awe of how someone who can barely run can make such an incredible contribution!).
Some of the plays were textbook – with fluent passing leading to simple tap-ins which were common place in the Rustler’s golden years but absent more recently.
Scorers were, I think, Tim (2), Ben, a Steve Brady hat trick, Andy and Soma. Of these 4 (?) were short corners (one a rebound off the pads, two slips to Soma on the left and one a zig-zag slip to the right). Somehow a clear penalty stroke from a short corner strike deflected by a TH player into the knee of his colleague on the line was given as a long corner – our umpire friend failing to spot the poor chap writhing on the ground clutching his knee. One of Tim’s was lashed so hard from an acute angle that it would now be in low level orbit had the net not stopped it. Even Dom found himself at the top of the opposition D with the ball falling to him. Inexplicably he failed to pull the trigger – probably lightheaded from the nose bleed at being so far up.
They did score another couple - one from a rare defensive mistake and the other an unstoppable reverse stick strike – but these were only after we had built and maintained a comfortable cushion. Final result 8-4: our vanquished opposition commenting that at times this had been a masterclass of teamwork.
This was a hugely enjoyable game and our opposition were right – it was a superb team performance.
The venue for teas was moved due to a ticketed firework event at Dulwich Cricket Club, but by the time we had showered our opposition were nowhere to be seen so a few of us retired to the nearest pub in Dulwich Village for a gloat and a well-deserved pint of Hobgoblin – Denehy-style selfie attached (we are happy, honest, but it was an effort to get us all in shot).
So well done to the 11 – you were awesome. That result puts us in a tremendous 3rd place in the League J
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