Heathens forget how to play hockey over Christmas
It was unfortunate that the fixtures for the Mens Heathens and Ladies 3s were not reversed at Avery Hill. Had this been the case the Heathens would have received a useful reminder from the Ladies of how simple effective hockey can be: pass, move, pass, move, first touch, communication, triangles etc.
As it was, a decent looking Heathens squad served up a shapeless blancmange of a performance only redeemed by a late rally that will hopefully provide the foundation for some improved performances in the weeks to come.
True to type the first quarter was the usual half-asleep self-indulgent rubbish. Barely two passes were strung together, while the marking and defensive organisation was also shambolic. The visitors entire backline risked hypothermia they were so uninvovled, with the Heathens unable to break out of their own half even against the Vets half-court press! Ex-captain Moore, counting unforced errors on the side, gave up after reaching the 40s before the quarter mark wark was up. It took all his recently aquired Zen powers to avoid self-combustion.
Fortunately the usually clinical Tunbridge short corner team were showing their own signs of rust and spurned every one of the umpteen shorts given up by the Heathens, despite Alex Muntus trying to be a generous host by getting himself sent to halfway for breaking early. Besides the visitors profligacy, the Heathens were indebted to the calm heads of Brett Melville and Mike Earnshaw, as well as an early nomination for MOM from Logan Pow, debuting in goal, in keeping the game goalless.
Perhaps there were a few silver linings in the first quarter shambles: first, despite a few frayed tempers the volatile Heathens had kept all 11 on the pitch; second, it couldn't get any worse.
As the half wore on, Christmas finally started to wear off, and led by James Elliot and Tom Cleall at inside forward some kind of pattern began to emerge to the Heathens play. It appeared that the total attacking dominance of the first 15 had turned into a useful rope-a-dope tactic against the rapidly tiring Tunbridge Vets, with their forwards now reluctantly dragged back to a half-court press. The Heathens even managed a few circle entries, although not much sniff of a goal.
The change around allowed for a far more positive half-time talk than anybody witnessing the first 15 minutes would have expected. The emphasis was on continuing the short passes, leading to allow line breaks and sustaining possession.
Whether it was too many changes at half time, some bizarrely misplaced over-confidence, or just the Heathens' unwaveringly slow start, the first 10 of the second half saw a reversion to the dross of the beginning of the game. Tunbridge Wells had now also left behind their Christmas generosity of the first period, scoring three unanswered goals and leaving the Heathens with a mountain to climb.
Finally stung into action the hosts found their mojo, with some decent team play yielding some short corners. From the second of these, James Elliot showed good composure to calmly pick out Charlie Nelson to deflect home. A few minutes later more sustained possession (it IS possible!) first pushed the whole Tunbridge team back into their own quarter, then some lateral passiing opened a channel for an unerring laser Tom Cleall pass for Andy Moore's tidy near-post deflection. Suddenly 2-3 and an unlikely (maybe undeserved?...) comeback looked on.
By this time however, the Christmas pudding had set in and the game rather petered out, with little incident of note at either end.
At least both teams were able to smile at their own shortcomings, the whole game played in a good spirit and well officiated.
Logan Pow was awarded MOM, with James Elliot, Alex Muntus and Brett Melville also mentionned in dispatches.
The only way is up Heathens