So, after a busy week of studying the form across the ladies’ section, captain Katie Smith made her final selection of the mighty 11 who would take part in the 240-mile round trip to Colchester for the quarter-final of the England Hockey Masters (Over 35s) Trophy. Realising the supreme fitness of these 11, she decided that subs would be an unnecessary distraction.
Off we went eastwards, fuelled by brioche (not just any brioche for our captain; this was M & S brioche…) to arrive at Colchester’s rather nice clubhouse with hot drinks available, much to the excitement of tea addicts Jules and Mell.
After an extensive warm-up (tea and, in some cases, sandwiches), we took to the pitch, which was more like carpet than astro. It did slow the game down a little – forcing us to adapt the super-fast-paced running game which is our usual style…
Anyway, perhaps thrown by the carpet or half-asleep from the long journey, we were soon 0-2 down, despite Julia’s best efforts in goal and Katie’s impressive goal-line double clearance. Nadine did create a good chance for herself at the other end with one of her trademark driving runs up the right, but the keeper saved.
Just as some of us were beginning to fear a repeat of our trip to Epsom two years ago (which involved a double-figures drubbing), Captain Katie used her tactical genius to reshuffle the pack, adapting our line-up and formation. Or, perhaps it was just that the brioche finally kicked in…
In any case, pretty much straight after the restart from the second Colchester goal, Claire was awarded a free hit in the middle of the pitch, took it quickly and found Tinny in the D. There’s usually only one outcome when this happens, and we were back in the game at 1-2.
Not long afterwards, the scores were level. Some good battling from Sarah (who was like a new woman on the left wing, repeatedly coming back to help the defence as well as setting up attacks) saw her win the ball and then pass the ball cross-pitch to Two-Goal Tinny. She nonchalantly dribbled it round a few defenders before rounding the keeper and slotting it into the net.
Colchester, however, managed to re-take the lead before half-time: 2-3 at the break. At some point, Claire also got a green card for a particularly inept stick tackle (I do feel suitably ashamed but, in my defence, I had watched the Ladies’ 2s Stick-Tackling Masterclass the day before…).
In the second half, it’s fair to say we got a little penned in to our own 25. Even Katie’s mammoth hit wasn’t always finding a way through. Julia was called on to make some great saves and we were saved more than once by Marianne’s impeccably-timed interceptions and tackles. On the left, Bernie and Angie had their hands full with the rather nippy Colchester attack but coped with it very well. Emma and Mell worked tirelessly (okay, so ‘tirelessly’ might not be completely accurate, but it was a huge team effort and we were all a little weary by the final whistle…) in the middle to break down Colchester’s attacks and distribute the ball to the wings.
Although it was mostly Colchester in the second half, we limited them to just one more goal: 2-4 the final score. We could have sneaked one or two back ourselves as well with a few short corners and a chance for Sarah who created space in the D really well to receive the ball on a break but couldn’t beat the keeper.
Sadly, our cup run is over for another year, but we’ll be back again next season.
The final score was fair enough though and we wish Colchester well in the next round. Their hospitality (and teas) was good – so thanks to them and the umpires who were both competent and friendly and ensured that the game was played in a really good spirit.
Still, in our 3 years of existence, no one has dared to take on Oxford’s finest (Age is Class) ladies’ team at home… Thanks to everyone for making the effort to travel and huge thanks to Captain Katie for organising us. She’s promising a possible home game friendly v. Hawks soon and funkier socks for next season, so do get in touch if you’re going to be 35 by the 1st September and fancy joining this elite bunch of players!
Scorer: Two-goal Tinny
Match report by Claire Hooper