Mens 1st Team v Cambridge City 2 W 2-1
On a crisp but sunny morning, Harleston men sponsored by Dynamic Club Shop flew the nest and landed at Wilberforce road and the home of Cambridge City 2s. Awaiting our arrival were two new beautifully laid pitches, a beautiful sight for any hockey player. As ever, the guys arrived in good spirits and start the day by attempting to break their hoodo – no, not winning away from home, but playing cricket before a game. Is it a curse? We dared to gamble and find out. Jack top scored with some irritating small shots, while Ruanaq nearly found himself in an inadvertent suicide pact with a discus while collecting the ball from the athletics field.
With all this fun it was easy to forget we had a game to play. The Harleston men started well in the first 15 minutes, controlling proceedings in high transfer and nearly went ahead through an early effort from stand-in captain Ben Gowing which was deflected narrowly wide. The pressure eventually told however when a well-crafted move starting at the back through Andrew Bedwell found Tom Sumner, who popped the ball into Ben Gowing, who then sprayed a beautiful ball out to discuss survivor Ruanaq Rai at right half who carried to the baseline and delivered to James Gray to brilliantly finish from close range. It was a sumptuous move that had manager Kevin Ridley purring on the sidelines. Harleston continued to apply pressure and before the half-time break missed three excellent deflections opportunities. Dave Gilbert, James Gray and Pete Bale all left looking to the heavens on this occasion. Were these misses just unfortunate? Or were the cricketing gods toying with the group? Only time would tell…
At half-time, a relaxed Tim Whiteman called for more patience and tempo, reminding the group that our pressure would eventually tell. Ten minutes into the second half, with the score still at 1-0 the balance however turned against Harleston as first Pete Bale (2 minutes), then Dave Gilbert (5 minutes) and James Gray (10 minutes) all went off for minor indiscretions that seemed harsh, even to the cricketing Gods. Note here – all three players sent off were also the three who missed deflections. Harleston had to then address a situation that had them pressing with 9 against a Cambridge 11. Harleston rode this out excellently but then, with 10 men, conceded a deflection goal from close range. Leek was helpless, the defense a little hopeless. Tension increased as the cricket gods chuckled away from above the clouds. It did indeed seem like the curse would not be broken.
However…Harleston stayed calm and with 5 minutes to go Cambridge themselves received a yellow card. Now Harleston had the upper-hand. They used it excellently, playing the ball around patiently to find Ruanaq Rai (again) at half-back, who found James Gray on the baseline who calmly found a foot. Penalty corner, 1 minute to go. The gods shuffled in nervous anticipation in their clouded seats. Harleston however executed the corner poorly and a shot deflected up and over the keeper. But wait! What comes up, must come down! The ball starts to drop, the gods are out of their seat and it falls, at the back post near Gilbert (UEA Dave) who fly swats the ball from high, down into the goal. A meer mortal man, from the UEA, defies the gods, breaks the curse and wins Harleston the game! Cue wild celebrations on the pitch and cordial handshakes on the bench between coach Tim Whiteman and manger Kevin Ridley. Harleston had done it and made it 5 wins on the spin.
Stand-in captain Ben Gowing reflected afterwards, ‘that was a test today but we reacted calmly to difficult situations and kept to our tactical game-plan. Right up to the end I never doubted we would score. The belief is half the battle. Roll on next week!”