GOAL-ACE GILBERT GUNS DOWN GALLANT HOLCOMBE
By tim walters
Mrs. Brown's Boys finish home programme in style
BEHC Dynamos 3 Holcombe Men's 6s 2
The final week of the season is all about two clubs, Holcombe and BEHC, who each have two teams in Kent Open Division 2. As a result of yesterday's result final table placings of 2nd, 3rd and 4th are all up for grabs for three teams (Holcombe 5a, BEHC Highwaymen and the BEHC Dynamos), with the various permutations keeping both interest and competition alive and kicking right down to the wire. Holcombe 5a can only sit and wait as they have already finished their 2018-2019 programme and currently sit second in the table, a position they will maintain if the Dynamos draw or win their final match "away" to the Highwaymen next week-end. Should the Highwaymen win, however, then they will displace Holcombe 5a in the runners-up spot. And just in case anybody might be worried about collusion or a replica of the 1982 "World Cup fix" between Germany and Austria in this final game at LMG, this is not very likely, given the customary inter-Club rivalry and the fact that the Dynamos would finish one place above their stablemates in the event of an away win. Holcombe 5a managed to lose to their supposedly lower-ranked team at the beginning of the new year, so there is no reason to suppose that the Highwaymen cannot match that feat!
But back to this past week-end's game - an absolute cracker between two patched-up teams, but in both cases where some very decent quality material had been used to supply the patches. The result was a "highly ecelectic" Dynamos squad, similarly staffed opposition, and a high-quality - if at times rather stretched and end-to-end - encounter, where the men in black once more belied their lowly status in the division. For the first time in weeks the wind abated, the sun shone and the home side pushed back from the campus end of Avery Hill. After an even opening seven minutes, however, it was the home side who struck first after some good approach work on the right found veteran striker Stephen Gilbert in the D, who with two deft touches took the ball, turned and buried it in the left-hand corner.
The Dynamos' team is a huge credit to their captain and coach, Chris Brown, who was once more instrumental in terms of guiding operations from his central midfield berth, so it was no real surprise that he was involved in doubling the lead five minutes later from a penalty corner, his pass to the right being neatly flicked into the roof of the net at the post by the waiting Ben Baker, who will sadly miss next week-end's dénouement after a fine season. In typical BEHC style, of course, the momentum could not last. However good the home side's forward movement was in midfield, this was never matched by its efforts when not in possession, where the marking was less visible than a dried-up felt-tip pen. Cue a swift number of counter-attacks down the away side's right and it was suddenly 2-1.
Nevertheless, rather than crumble, the Dynamos decided to go back on the offensive and restore the two goal advantage through a fine opportunist effort from Neil Campbell, who played well throughout on the left-hand side of midfield and fully deserved his third strike of the season to make it 3-1 at the break. It looked like there were plenty more goals in the offing in the second half, but strangely they never materialised.
The second-half was very much backs-to-the-wall, as Holcombe changed their formation, committed more bodies forward, and pressed the home team back into their own half, the only respite coming from Max Taylor's forays down the right which helped run the clock down, but rarely threatened to increase the scoreline, such was his isolation on the wing. A couple of good chances came and went, but it was all Holcombe now, and the team were greatly indebted to some sterling defending by their back line. Home keeper Ben Wickramasuriya was vocal, positive and marshalled his D and fellow defenders with considerable maturity, whilst the two stand-out performers on the day were Jake Lewis in the centre, who cut out numerous dangerous balls and did well with his overall positioning, and the excellent Jon Taylor at left back, a true leader, inspiration and gritty worker, who was not averse to pushing forward whenever circumstances permitted in the second half. The visitors inevitably pulled one back with ten minutes still left on the clock, but the men in red clung on grimly, particularly when defending a series of short corners where their shotgun defence - allied to some Holcombe incompetence - meant that they were never seriously threatened by the set-pieces. The final whistle went, just as the Dynamos were awarded a short corner that they also fluffed, to leave the scoreline at 3-2, which was a fairly accurate reflection of proceedings across the full 70 minutes, if not the last 35.
At one stage BEHC had both Mssrs. Gilbert and Tony D'Cruz in the dug-out together. One of the Holcombe youngsters seemed very confused when told that the home team had "155 years on the bench", as he assumed someone was referring to the age of the wood they were sitting on, not the actual individuals themselves. The latter nearly set up a goal after a marvellous trap of a long tracer-bullet into the opposition's D, but was just thwarted at the last. Both of these great Club servants were able to prove, however, that it is not true to say that the only great things of considerable age are to be found in bottles.
Whatever happens next week-end, the Dynamos have done themselves, and the Club, proud in 2018-2019.
Ben Wickramasuriya (GK), Graham Green, Neil Campbell, Chris Brown (C), Ravi Wickramasuriya, Tony D'Cruz, Jake Lewis, Matt Robinson, Tim Walters, Ben Baker, Max Taylor, Stephen Gilbert and Jon Taylor
Stephen Gilbert - no vote necessary, just a nailed-on certainty following Stevie G's fine opening goal to get things underway. Nobody deserved it more than this dedicated Clubman who, for once, was not the oldest name on the team-sheet.
Annette Christie-Golding from BEHC and Ray Zerafa from Holcombe did a magnificent job from start to finish, keeping play moving and officiating in a firm, fair and decisive manner, and working well in tandem as a team when one or other was partially unsighted - a great example to set to any budding watching umpires.
The attached album contains images of, amongst other things: Ben Wickramasuriya rehydrating after the final whistle ..... his smiling dad, Ravi - on this occasion a marauding right-back ..... sunset at Avery Hill ..... an ex-Burnt Ash player now at Holcombe and responsible for respraying Ravi's car ..... skipper Chris Brown snapped from his "good" side ..... the octogenarian wizard that is Tony D'Cruz ..... Holcombe legends Sutton and Zerafa ..... and a very smug looking "Stevie G".