U18 Boys destroy Southgate to march on to Finals Day

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With Paul Hillsdon having already intimidated the opposition just by standing still (“have you seen their coach – he’s enormous!” was the quote from the Southgate camp before the game), the CoP U18s took to the pitch knowing that they had not yet turned in the kind of performance of which they were really capable.

Fielding a full strength team despite a week of intense hockey games, they found themselves on the back foot for the first 10 minutes. Looking a little nervous, with their traditional slow start, the Southgate midfield were allowed to dictate the play and the CoP D had to withstand alot of pressure; fortunately Callum Rigby in goal made a couple of smart saves to settle them down. Ironically it was after CoP began to make inroads at the other end that Southgate won a short corner which they duly dispatched to lead 1-0after 15 minutes. CoP then began to build their play, and a re-arrangement of the defence when James Fisher turned his ankle and had to go off for a rest, saw Joel Gilmour move to the centre of the back line from where he commanded the troops highly effectively for the rest of the game.

Despite plenty of flowing hockey from both teams, it took until the 26th minute for CoP to equalise, when Marcus Howard drilled a short corner strike onto a Soutgate foot, and the ball deflected up and past the wrong-footed keeper. Less then 2 minutes later, Adam Wilson gave CoP the lead with the first of his goals – a lovely through ball from midfield bypassed the entire Southgate defence; Adam collected the ball just outside the D, and having made the keeper commit, calmly rounded him and slotted the ball into the net. 6 minutes later it was 3-1 as a change of short-corner routine saw Marcus slip the ball back to Adam who flicked it high on the narrow angle from the injectors position past the keeper’s shoulder.

CoP were now looking much more confident and turning defence regularly into attack, although Fernie and Ghandi in midfield for Southgate were still demonstrating some great skills and making Marcus and Chris Clarkson work hard to keep their shape, Callum continued to clear the ball with confidence whenever he was called upon and 3-1 up at half-time was a good situation for the team.

Coach Hillsdon’s half time talk clearly told them to keep doing what they were doing, and Southgate were not helped when one of the their players took an early rest on a yellow following 2 heavy stick-tackles in quick succession. Adam took full advantage of the extra man shortly afterward, with a trademark reverse-stick effort hard and low into the far corner of the net to mark his hat-trick. Southgate stubbornly refused to let their heads drop, but were finding it harder and harder to break down the excellent defense of CoP where Matt Porter and Joel continued to mop up pretty much everything which cam their way. Another couple of outstanding saves from Callum preserved the lead, and up front, Nathan Foad’s tireless running was continuing to cause the Southgate defense difficulties and several more short corners came and went without scoring. On 51 minutes, Marcus notched his second of the game from open play to effectively remove any lingering doubts about the result. A few minutes later it was 6-1 as Adam sent a cross over from a narrow angle for Ross Ambler to tap in.

5 minutes from time, Southgate finally found the net for the second time with another short corner goal, but it was no more than a minor consolation. To rub salt into the wound, CoP won yet another short corner right on the final whistle, and 3 more short corners later, Matt Porter buried the ball to cap a fine individual performance.

This was after the nervy start a fine team performance, with Callum Rigby in goal producing his best game of the season with a number of excellent saves at key moments, which earned him the Man of the Match award. In truth however you could probably have given it to any number of players!

The boys now make the trek north to Bowdon HC (Manchester) on Sunday 10th April where they have been drawn against Deeside Ramblers in the semi-final. Ironically, Deeside are last years’ runners up in the same competition, and are the only team in the whole competition to have actually won a match in the Cup competition from which teams qualify! The other 2 semi-finalists are Woking and Stourport.