TWO TEAMS ARE THE REAL DEAL
Ainley plays his cards right, despite narrow pre-season loss
BEHC Highwayman 4 BEHC Dynamos 5
This was a really good game in advance of a season which promises to be highly entertaining with both teams now competing in Kent Open Division 3, the Dynamos having achieved promotion via a runners-up slot after an 18-match unbeaten run in Division 4, the Highwaymen missing the step up to Division 2 for the second season running on goal difference alone. Sadly, the attendance almost reached the levels of the proverbial one man and his dog, although it was actually Mrs. Ainley who accompanied the four-legged mascot for the day, who even made it into the post-match photograph above. Nevertheless, anyone watching would have indeed been surprised to learn that they were witnessing the Club’s 6s and 7s at work, even if at times both teams were a little at sixes and sevens due to unfamiliarity, 11 outfield players with no keepers and the wide variety of shirts on display. In between, however, some great flowing hockey took place in an evenly matched encounter, where four goals were shared in the first half and the “visitors” edged the second 3-2, with both teams leading at various points in proceedings.
The pre-match question was to what extent Mssrs. Ainley and Brown would keep their cards close to their chest to gain any potential advantage for the real league action later this year. Player-manager Brown may have thought he had the edge by turning up with a hockey clipboard under his arm, but nobody was fooled as he was forced to use his black marker on a blue plastic background to produce a totally illegible line-up as a result. Mark Ainley’s smart ring-binder beat him hands down on this score, although his handwritten alterations to the team-sheet were rather akin to a 5-year-old’s attempt to reproduce the London tube map, which did confuse the older members of the Highwaymen squad with attention span disorders a little. Getting the team to line-up in formation within a ten metre square after half-time (for clarification purposes) proved to be a masterstroke, as it suddenly became clear that 1) the team had no keeper, and 2) the 1-2-8 formation – whilst bristling with offensive intent – did indeed have one or two tactical limitations. But all joking aside, Mark Ainley shuffled his cards and resources well and the team played as attractively as it has all calendar year as a result. With only one recognised defender on show and plenty of attacking midfielders, it meant that most players were in unfamiliar positions and performing less familiar roles on the pitch, but this did not seem to matter greatly. Neither were the “hosts” put off or intimidated by the Dynamos’ 5-mile warm-up run round College Meadow led by an extremely poker-faced Chris Brown, whilst the Highwaymen searched for their hip-flasks and corkscrews. Tony D’Cruz was the fastest Dynamo on show and the first one back from the warm-up run anyway.
For the record, the Highwaymen’s four goals came courtesy of a brace from the returning sammy chana, who could have easily bagged a hat-trick, Pat Gainey netting his second goal in consecutive games, and the ever-excellent Graham Green. The visitors cleared three further efforts off the line but were just a bit more clinical with their finishing at the other end, always seeming to have the odd extra card up their sleeves, so the result was generally a very fair reflection of the 70 minutes’ play that preceded it.
And the post-match assessment? In truth, neither side will have learnt anything new from the fixture, but both will have benefitted greatly from an excellent quality pre-season work-out. In fairness, however, if the card game in question had been Top Trumps, then the Dynamos’ hand would have been worth quite a few more points than that of their opponents, so it will be interesting to see how many of Saturday’s line-up make it to next week’s tricky league opener away at Old Bordenians. On paper at least the Highwaymen would appear to have more aces in their hand for the visit of neighbouring Burnt Ash, but time will tell.
And the last word of the day? This goes to the deserved victors, where Alex Bertioli produced the following brief match report. Once the Highwaymen have cleared away the empty Chablis bottles Mr. Ainley will probably pin a copy of this to the dressing-room wall (doubtless with a few handwritten annotations) before the corresponding league fixture in November:
On September the 30th a friendly match took place between the "Highwaymen" and the "Dynamos". Throughout the first half both teams were more or less evenly matched. By the end of the first the score was 2 – 2, one of which was converted by Bertioli who received the ball almost on the goal line and chipped it over the "goalie", or ball bags depending on your perspective.
As the second half commenced the Highwayman began to show their age, this was evident as their ball control and passes became sloppy and it was becoming easier to make runs and get the ball into a good position. Dynamos used their higher level of endurance and skill to their advantage as they stayed consistent and this really helped them to run away with the game with the final score being 5-4 to the mighty Dynamos.
Overall it was a great match and I am sure both teams are looking forward to playing each other again.
tim walters, Tom Cleall, Chris Bernard, Ravi Wickramasuriya, Greg Dowse, Graham Green, Pat Gainey, Ross Ainley, David Leverton, Zac Gauge, sammy chana and Stephen Gilbert (C).
There were some great performances across the park, but no formal vote was taken, even if Tom Cleall would probably have just about shaded it for his all-round energy and class.
Chris Fowler and Prem Marwaha did an excellent job throughout and are due both sincere thanks and a pat on the back. The only criticism was that neither of them possessed a set of cards in order to send the “visiting” skipper Chris Brown to the naughty chair for his repeated misdemeanours!