OLD IS GOOD ... SOMETIMES
Highwaymen reap rewards on the Green Green grass of home
Clearly smarting from the hockey committee’s midweek aspersions about the Highwaymen being old, set in their archaic ways and extremely low-tech, match-day manager Mark Ainley was determined to prove the doubters wrong. Mind you, say "scroll down" to him and he thinks "parchment" rather than "touch-screen".
Nevertheless, once the squad had cleared away the Grand Cru, canapés and bottles of liniment from the dressing room table, he presented his meticulous master plan for the afternoon on a sheet of foolscap with a fountain pan, only to then grasp quickly for the red ink. Sinking back into his rocking chair, the news sank in that injured regular keeper Tom Conway was not going to make the starting XI, thus necessitating a rapid re-think of his pre-match strategy. What started out as adversity, however, turned into a masterstroke, as a keeperless 4-5-2 line-up really looked the business for the first 30 minutes, but more of that later.
Had the team possessed a dressing room ghetto-blaster, then it might well have been a pre-match tune like Tom Jones’ “Green green grass of home” that they were whistling along to, although that would have been a little inappropriate as this was scheduled to be the team’s only home fixture in the unfamiliar surroundings of Colfe’s. More apt perhaps was the inclusion of the excellent father-son combination of Graham Green and Lorcan Green, who both turned in sparkling performances on a day that had started off so inauspiciously.
Missing a number of regulars, the men in red were delighted to see another two youngsters in the squad, with Tom Farrant putting in a great performance in central defence, and Callum O’Doughall doing a grand job in midfield. The familiar faces of Stephen Garth, sammy chana and Stephen Gilbert were able to slot into their accustomed midfield / forward roles, whilst Phil Kinch was again on hand for some crucial interceptions at the back throughout. Reluctant defensive maestro Chris Bernard also performed a starring role as a deep-lying sweeper, although he was clearly somewhat miffed after his pre-match demand for “no back-passing” when he received just such a ball from fully 40 metres early in the second half.
The first half-hour was nothing short of amazing, as any casual observer might not have even noticed the handicap the home team was carrying, so dominant were the men from BEHC in terms of both territory and possession. In no time at all they found themselves 3-0 up, thanks to well taken goals from the usual suspects of Graham Green, Ravi Wickramasuriya and the tireless Ali Burnett, only to then take their foot off the pedal and concede two sloppy goals within a five-minute spell when they briefly lost their disciplined game plan and the visitors from the Kent coast came to terms with the concept of facing 11 outfield opponents.
Only leading by a single goal at half-time, the second 35 minutes looked like they could be “long” ones, so the decision to let man-of-the-match Greg Dowse don the keeper’s kit with just over a quarter of an hour left was a good one. The Highwaymen – not for the first time – fired off any number of blanks from short-corner opportunities, so there was always a risk that a well-executed counter-attack could prove costly, and so it so nearly proved with just under ten minutes left on the clock when the game was effectively decided within 60 seconds. The guests from Folkestone, who contributed greatly to a fine contest, piled on the pressure down their right flank, where they played some fine hockey all game and often overloaded the hosts as a result. One such sortie culminated in a brilliant cross across the home D which evaded everyone bar the attacker at the far post who had a seemingly open goal at his mercy. Somehow, the ball was swept wide, the relieved home defence survived, and the team went straight down the other end of pitch and scored immediately courtesy of Graham Green's well-taken second of his deserved brace.
Thereafter the home side were able to see out the final few minutes with few real alarms and the relative comfort of a two-goal cushion to secure a hard-fought win which spoke volumes for the character and attitude of the squad. To a man everybody contributed greatly to a fine team performance which may not always have been pretty, but which was still pretty impressive given the circumstances. As captain Stephen Gilbert held his customary post-match de-brief and loaded the black-and-white film into the Polaroid camera, the team went through its usual warm-down and stretching routines, which generally involve leaning into the boot of the car to grab the Barbour jacket and suede brogues.
So that’s an unlikely 10 tens points return from a possible 12, even if tougher tests doubtless lie ahead for the men in red. As for “technology”? Pah! … anybody seen the corkscrew?
Phil Kinch, tim walters, Tom Farrant, Chris Bernard, Ravi Wickramasuriya, Greg Dowse, Graham Green, Lorcan Green, sammy chana, Stephen Garth, Ali Burnett, Callum O’Doughall and Stephen Gilbert (C).
Greg Dowse. Again … not only for an excellent first 50 minutes patrolling the left flank and linking, covering and working his socks off as usual, but also for the final 15 minutes, where he also achieved a rarity in terms of a first clean sheet for a Highwaymen keeper this season.
Paddy Ferguson and Jon Lewis, both of whom did an excellent job in a free-flowing and hugely enjoyable fixture between two teams who just wanted to play hockey.