Boys U16 Regional Finals Review
High quality hockey, strong game management and excellent team work....
(copied from an email sent to the parents of the boys that attended)
I thought the boys did incredibly well at the England Hockey West Regional finals on Sunday, playing a high quality brand of hockey against a challenging set of opposition teams. Apart from the obvious tiredness creeping in during the 2nd half of the Bournemouth match they had stayed in contention for qualification for finals day at Lee Valley later in the year until the end.
The fact they didn’t get through was a shame but in truth I think the boys knew it was a tall order to expect to outscore Havant in the final game, who were playing against the apparent weakest team on the day in their last match. This did lead to us chasing our game a little, which is understandable.
We’d discussed at the start of the day the importance of link up play through midfield to transition from defence to attack, thinking about keeping possession and ultimately about the game management side of things. I thought they did that exceptionally well.
Against Bath Buccaneers they made a great start and could have been 2-0 up within the first five minutes before a goal on the break led to a slightly surprising 0-1 scoreline. Two goals from Nat and Archie in the space of a minute shortly before half time put paid to that and whilst we let them back in to what was becoming an even game at 2-2, Cam put us back in the lead with 5 minutes to go, apparently kicking the ball into the open goal after it had crossed the line. Always good to make sure (!) and a 3-2 was a good start to the tournament.
Remaining focussed against a strong Havant side, probably the favourites to qualify on the day, was a tall order and led to the boys giving arguably their performance of the season against the strongest side they’d played all year. Yes, they rode their luck somewhat against a barrage of penalty corners at the end of the first half with Angus and in particular Henry at the centre of that but that’s what is sometimes needed in tournament hockey - you have to find a way to stay in the mix.
Again, going 0-1 down early in the second half didn’t seem to phase the boys and after managing to get back into the game through Cam, they had some good chances to win the match. A penalty corner for Havant in the last minute or so led to a few nervous glances as there was the feeling something had to give but it ended with a great 1-1 result, which given the context felt like a win.
Still in with a chance of qualification going into the final game against Bournemouth, the boys were a little distracted by the what-if scenarios and attempts were made to keep their feet on the ground and to concentrate on maintaining the way they had been playing. The message was that if they did that, the result would come. Whether it would be enough was a secondary concern, as we needed to take one step at a time although we would be monitoring from afar what was happening on the other pitch, so we knew what we needed to do if it came to it.
Unfortunately tired legs and tired minds played their part and with Bournemouth getting opportunities through Reading mistakes - where previously the connections through defence, midfield and attack were solid - the ball was being carried slightly too often. It looked likely that the 0-0 halftime score wouldn’t last and with Havant seemingly cruising on the other pitch against Bath Buccaneers the boys had to start to chase the game to have any chance of qualification.
Inevitably this led to opportunities for Bournemouth to score goals and whilst the score remained at 0-2 for a while the boys still had chances to get a goal back, although a mis-coordinated penalty corner routine was symptomatic of the way the match was going. A couple of very late goals from Bournemouth, one from the penalty spot, put any further ambitions to rest and gave the result a rather flattering look at 0-4, although to be fair it was a deserved win in the end.
All in all I was really pleased with the way the boys played and very, very proud of the performances they gave. Talking to them in the changing room afterwards there were no regrets and that really emphasised that they should be proud of what they’d achieved and that they had represented Reading Hockey club very well.
They were clearly up for the day and shaped the team performances around the themes discussed. I said to Jeremy before the final match that whatever happened they had been fantastic, self managing as a squad and you could really see they were enjoying playing together.
Henry had a series of fantastic performances in goal and could do little for the goals we conceded, in truth. He was the ‘Wall of Wokingham’ against Havant (ok, he lives in Crowthorne; it’s close geographically speaking !)
Captain Tom and Toby at the back worked well together, with some sensible positioning and switching of play. The also showed good discipline and game management to see things through. I was very pleased with the way they played with Tom doing a great job as skipper, as he has done all season.
Ollie and Arthur supported well through the half back positions, with Arthur being very composed under extreme pressure at the left side and Ollie pushing up on the right when the opportunity arose. Both made good decisions to retain possession when the way forward was blocked.
Shifting to a tactical 4-4-2, with a flat four across the middle versus the usual diamond meant a slight reshuffle in the midfield formation but Nathan, Angus, Fred and Nat provided a strong barrier in front of the defence time and time again. They also worked tirelessly to support the forward line as needed.
Sam put in a shift alternating between playing in midfield and attack, causing the opposition problems with his pace and player elimination. Archie and in particular Cam played well again up front; Archie never giving the opposition defenders a moments piece and Cam, who has really begun to find his scoring boots in recent weeks - good timing, showing deft touches and getting on the scoresheet as regularly as ever.
I’d also especially like to thank Marcus and Dobby who supported the team with several spells on the pitch, allowing us to give the opposition a different challenge to deal with at key moments. It’s particularly hard when put in a supporting role and they were very understanding of that so I wanted to give them a specific mention. They did well given the difficult nature of the competition and how close the games ended up being.
I’d like to thank David for umpiring (see, it’s not a totally thankless task) and Jeremy for helping out on the bench all season. I don’t think I’d like to count how many hours we’ve spent talking about tactics or how many cups of coffee have be consumed discussing how well the boys played in the last match etc. It’s been fun.
Finally, I’d like to thank you all as parents. We all taxi our kids around to their hockey activities; listen and support them when things aren’t going well or enjoy their successes with them when they do. It’s an important role we play in their sporting development and can be challenging at times, so thank you for that and the support you’ve given to the team.
This mail has the feeling of finality to it but the season hasn’t ended yet ! I expect training sessions on Tuesdays will still happen for a few more weeks although I would think many of our boys won’t be there tonight after the weekend. I would encourage people to come along as regularly as they can, though, and stay for men’s training as that will help with their hockey development. I’m also aware that school work pressure is building so that may be tough to achieve.
Anyway, thanks again and well done to the boys.
See you soon.