Oxford Mens 4XI vs Sonning Mens 3rd XI
First pre-season game of the season. Match report written by the teams 'Classics' graduate - Harvey Richardson.
With a new look, fresh-faced squad and despite some alarm-clock related delays from one player, Sonning Men’s Third’s began their new campaign with a hard-fought draw away against Oxford 4s.
Immediately from the push back, Oxford 4s put Sonning under pressure; playing a composed, structured passing game. If the GB Women’s hockey success has taught any worthwhile hockey team, it is that resilience is key. Sonning 3s demonstrated this throughout the opening 20 minutes, soaking up a lot of pressure and frequently catching high-pressing Oxford on the break. Despite Sonning’s determination , however, it was Oxford 4s that struck first blood- scoring from a well-struck short corner. It was clear that Sonning would have to adapt to Oxford’s calculated use of width and high pressure hockey. This challenge was met to devastating effect when not 5 minutes later Sonning responded with a fantastically worked goal. A series of incisive passes led to an on-goal opportunity, sublimely taken by a sweeping strike squeezed in at the left post by Chris Roberts. This goal gave Sonning a renewed confidence, as Chris O’Hagan provided a solid basis of defence and distribution so that debutant and Man of the Match Sam Westmancoat could neatly interlink with the blisteringly fast pace of Scott Daughters, Harvey Richardson and focal point Chris Stone. Indeed Roberts could have added to his total, if not for the unfortunate repercussions of physics when failing to hold onto ones stick as one strikes the ball.
As the second half began, as did further opportunities for Sonning to attack. With Oxford 4s unable to sustain their once cohesive shape, and their individual fitness found wanting, Sonning grew in confidence. Further neat play from Westmancoat combining with the likes of O’Hagan, Ta and scorer Roberts meant left forward Scott Daughters could make several skilful runs in field. The game of hockey so frequently can turn, and another period of sustained pressure led to an Oxford 4s short corner, neatly dispatched bottom right. Patience, perseverance and persistence emanated throughout the team regardless of the scoreline, with Sonning now attacking in waves. A neat through ball from the mercurial talent that is Alex Littleboy saw Chris Stone pick the ball up on the baseline, sending a cute ball through to bounce up to Harvey Richardson who then flicked it past the floundering goalkeeper to draw level.
At certain points during history, men such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Winston Churchill triumphantly turn adversity into victory. Pete Orchard had already placed his body on the line, somehow deflecting an absolute bullet of a drag-flick destined for the top right hand corner away. The stage was set for one last gasp moment of leadership. In the last minute of the game, a scrappy ball managed to find its way via a deflection to captain and glorious leader Chris Stone. With the last hit of the game, Sonning’s comeback was in the hands of the Captain that had had the foresight to even bring a magnetic clipboard/whiteboard combination to the pre-game tactics meeting . The ball bounced, the keeper dove, Stone struck and all members on the field collectively held their breath. Fortunately for Oxford, what followed was a miss not unlike the GB Hockey Men’s Olympic form- somewhat lacking in execution.
As the game ended 2-2, Sonning can reflect positively on their first test, dealing with pressure well and forcing Oxford to only score from short corners. A younger squad with superior fitness and great potential will prove to be a solid foundation upon which to build upon a better defensive shape, a higher passing tempo and more conviction when attacking.
MoTM: Sam Westmancoat
DoTD: Chris Stone
By Harvey Richardson