May the FOURce be with you ...
The umpire strikes back as the Highwaymen score four
BEHC Highwaymen 4 Maidstone Men's 5s 0
This was a fine advert for hockey at this level in Kent. Even if the score implies a comfortable home win, then the match itself was anything but, as the visiting development team from Maidstone played some fine hockey and never let their heads drop for the full 70 minutes. Despite turning up to Blackheath High School in more instalments than a series of Star Wars films, the visitors were much faster out of the blocks than the home team who spent much of the first quarter of an hour struggling to escape from their own half. Once again the defence were indebted to some great defending at short corners from the ever dependable Richard Cleall, and rookie keeper Ben Wickramasuriya certainly deserved his clean sheet despite the best efforts of the visiting team from Kent's capital. Fellow youngster lorcan Green plus the ever-so-slightly older pairing of Steve Miller and Phil Kinch completed the defensive shut-out, as once again manager Mark Ainley had to shuffle his players around the hole left by injury absentee Ali Burnett and work out how to maximise the resources at his disposal.
The team were, however, greatly bolstered by the Darth Vader-like presence of the imposing Andy Rose, his hockey stick sweeping all before him like a light sabre as he refused to let the dark side (i.e. the team in blue) gain the upper hand. Once again he was assisted in his intergalactic endeavours by Greg Dowse, who continues his Martini-esque ("any time, any place, anywhere ...") marauding around Kent's astroturf with aplomb. The victory was ultimately secured during a first-half blitz which was rather against the run of play. Pat Gainey's excellent opener slapped in from the right with venom was the definite sign of a striker returning to top form, but the score stayed that way before a genius substitution stroke (swapping a full-back for a full-back) led to two goals in five minutes. The first by the now almost prolific sammy chana may have been a bit scrappy, but his second was pure poetry. A slick short-corner move found Ravi Wickramasuriya on the right of the D, and his exquisite diagonal pass to the far post gave the ever alert forward a straightforward finish to send the Highwaymen in to half-time with a three-goal cushion that was pretty harsh on Maidstone.
The second half saw the home team consolidate their position and come close on a number of occasions, but the wide open vista of outer space seemed to suit the home storm-troopers more than their opponents, despite the odd scare on the break. The second 35 minutes were nonetheless illuminated by a stellar solo effort, his second of the game, from Pat Gainey who broke into the D from the left, carried the ball past several defenders towards the right and then cracked in an unstoppable effort from a tight angle to finally squash any pretensions the visitors might have of staging a late comeback. Captain Stephen Gilbert nearly got in on the act when he was picked out with a wonderful long ball which he controlled with all the magic of a Jedi master, and it was grand to see him once again thriving as an impact substitute causing confusion to visiting defenders. Poor Graham Green somehow managed to get whacked three times on the same foot within twenty second half minutes, as the same Maidstone defender worked out that the best way to stop the Highwaymen's marauder on the right was via a laser-accurate assault on his boots. He was fortunate indeed to limp his way through to the final whistle.
Maidstone are likely to get better after Christmas and their performance belied their lowly league position, but this was a fine game and brilliantly umpired by both officials. The only blot on umpire Seneka's copybook revealed that 21st century technology can indeed present challenges to those over 40-ish [sic] - even for someone with his Yoda-like wisdom - as it took no fewer than three attempts from him to take the post match team photograph on a smartphone. Still ... the inadvertent selfie close-up of his right nostril was probably more attractive than the eventual team photograph published above.
Thanks to the Dynamos excellent victory at Holcombe. the Highwaymen are guaranteed to finish the first half of the season next week-end in the top two of Division 3, regardless of the result at highly-fancied Herne Bay, which will give the team plenty to play for after Christmas ..... if the force is with them!
Ben Wickramasuriya, lorcan Green, tim walters, Steve Miller, Phil Kinch, Andy Rose, Richard Cleall, Ravi Wickramasuriya, Greg Dowse, Pat Gainey, sammy chana, Graham Green and Stephen Gilbert (C).
A genuine team performance meant that lots of players got one vote and there was no outright winner, in which case the award goes to Mr. Consistent so far this season, Greg Dowse - well done!
Seneka and the visiting umpire from Maidstone were both top class. - the only cards they nearly brandished were of the Christmas variety. Match officials often get criticism but rarely true praise where it is due ... like here. Thank you.