CONWAY'S COOL CARE IN THE COMMUNITY
By tim walters
Highwaymen succumb to Men's 5s in a blistering pre-season friendly
BEHC Highwaymen 2 BEHC Men's 5s 4
It was obvious that keeper Tom Conway meant business from the moment he turned up on Saturday, clearly wishing to make the point that as the team's resident youngster he was forever digging his elderly colleagues out of the mire - hence the personalised O'NEILLS Club shirt he sported on arrival (see picture above). And so it proved thereafter, as he turned in possibly his best ever goalkeeping performance at BEHC with a commanding display of blocking, kicking and angle-narrowing, only being beaten via three penalty corners and a cross that was turned in at the far post after nutmegging most of the Highwaymen's defence and about half of the visitors' forward line too.
But this was an excellent game and good preparation for the coming season, as a young, speedy, skillful, well-managed and and well-drilled 5s team dominated for long spells in terms of both possession and territory, but could never quite send their old opponents packing in the Saga tour bus. The Highwaymen may have to get used to this in the coming season, playing at a higher level in Kent Open 2, but to come from behind twice in warm, sticky conditions during an end-to-end first half was no mean achievement.
For the first time this season the team was able to make the welcome inclusion of BEHC stalwarts Steve Miller, Graham Green and Pat Gainey, the latter two battling manfully in the opponents' half despite decidedly slim pickings, the former taking up his usual central defensive berth alongside Phil Kinch at the back. The men in red also fielded two triallists, Paul Duncan and back-to-hockey graduate Neil Campbell, both of whom acquitted themselves quite admirably under testing circumstances, as the pace of the game never let up for the full 70 minutes. Of the usual midfield suspects, once again the tireless Greg Dowse caught the eye as the man for all seasons - even the hot ones in September - whilst Mssrs. Wickramasuriya, Cooke and Bernard all put in a hard and sweaty shift.
The game will also be memorable for striker Matt Robinson, who scored a brace, including a first equalizer which will be an early contender for goal-of-the-season: his one touch deflection of a pacey 40-meter pass into the D and into the roof of the net belonged to a higher level of hockey altogether, even if the second to make it 2-2 was slightly more pedestrian by comparison. Stephen Gilbert had some nice touches too, clearly spurred on by the provocative words on his young keeper's shirt, whilst the return of matchday manager Mark Ainley on the touchline also had a very tangible and positive impact on proceedings, as per usual.
So what were the three things to be learnt from Saturday's game? (Possibly a regular feature in this season's reports …?)
1) when the chance conversion rate is reasonably good - as it was on Saturday - the team can still do OK without dominating the ball or the pitch for protracted amounts of time - against good teams this becomes a necessary skill;
2) it is early days, but the rock-solid defence of last season is looking a little creaky after shipping 7 goals in two games, and the Highwaymen certainly need to do a better job of defending penalty corners in the months ahead; and
3) be careful … visiting skipper Paul Whitney has clearly decided that white shoes are an improvement on his previous pink + blue ones, but you can still see when the ball hits one of them. So the lesson is simple: get changed in daylight, not the broom cupboard.
Next up is Burnt Ash for the final pre-season game on September 29, 2018.
Tom Conway, tim walters, Steve Miller, Phil Kinch, Ravi Wickramasuriya, Chris Bernard, Andy Cooke, Greg Dowse, Graham Green, Pat Gainey, Matt Robinson, Neil Campbell, Paul Duncan and Stephen Gilbert (C).
Tom Conway - his best performance ever for the Highwaymen, and only beaten at all by three short corners and a cross that evaded literally everybody.
Richard Cleall and Chris Brown did an excellent job and are to be commended for whistling a pre-season friendly so well in very warm conditions, although the players played their part with great attitudes across the park: the match was fiercely competitive but contested in exactly the right way. The decision-making from both officials was spot-on throughout - well done!