The Only Way is (through) Essex!
City of Peterborough Under 16 Boys travelled to the University of Essex in Colchester on Saturday 10th December for the East Indoor Hockey Championships. Their opponents were Harleston Magpies (last years Under 16 East Champions), Old Loughtonians from Essex (who have been regulars at National Indoor Finals in all age groups) and Rutland, who were somewhat an unknown entity with not much indoor playing experience.
The under 16 team had been well prepared by their coach Mike Yeoman. Regular training, plus a number of practice matches had honed the small squad into a useful team, who had disposed of Saffron Walden 13-5 to win the Cambridgeshire Championship three weeks earlier. Some of the squad (Cameron Heald and Scott Howard) were “veterans” at this age group, with this now being their third East Finals Competition, but most were novices to the indoor competition and had only started playing the indoor variant in September this year.
City of Peterborough had finished 2nd in the last two seasons in this under 16 East competition. At the start of the season Mike Yeoman had described this as a rebuilding year, as many of the older and experienced boys from the last two seasons had moved up to the under 18 age group.
All in all though, hopes were high for at least the runners up spot, which would again mean qualification for the National Indoor Hockey Finals in January 2012.
City of Peterborough 7 – Rutland 1
City started confidently against Rutland. Captain Cameron Heald settled any early nerves firing a short corner low and past the Rutland keeper in the 3rd minute, then a few minutes later Heald set up Sam Biccarino to deflect home the 2nd from another well-rehearsed corner. It was another deflected goal, this time from Bob Cliffe popping up in the right place to make the score 3-0 at halftime.
The next goal was a real all round effort in the planning, with the support team on the side line (coach Mike Yeoman and manager David Heald) spotting an opportunity at the restart that Cameron Heald swiftly and expertly converted.
With Rutland clearly set up ready to push forward and pressure from the restart, coach Yeoman signalled to his Captain, who dummied the pushback then turned and dribbled directly at the Rutland goal. There was some dispute amongst the team later, but the consensus was that it only took him two and a half seconds to beat five surprised tacklers and slot the ball past the keeper to make it 4-nil.
This had effectively sealed the result and extinguished any Rutland comeback hopes. Minutes later Heald had 4 goals and it was 6-nil in the game, following a high short corner drag flick and a second penetrating dribble and clinically placed shot.
The City of Peterborough scoring (their seventh) was finished with another late Bob Cliffe deflected goal (a copy of his first). Rutland then got a deserved goal back in the last minute from a break, with a goal slipped past the young Peterborough keeper Cameron Goodey. The match though ended in a bit of confusion with Leo Davies and one umpire thinking that a shot right on the buzzer had gone in before the end of the game, but the second umpire and the tournament table overruling as they believed the “B of the Buzz” had beaten the last second shot.
In the end, a 7-1 win for City of Peterborough was a clear reflection of their dominance in all parts of the pitch. There were some areas to improve on, but a great start all in all.
City of Peterborough 6 – Old Loughtonians 5
With Old Loughtonians beating Harleston in their first game, this was set to be the crucial game in the tournament. City of Peterborough were straight back on, so coach Mike Yeoman had a few wise words on focusing on doing the right things and improving on some key parts of the game needed to get a result against a talented Old Loughtonians team.
A dream start for City of Peterborough came in the opening five minutes. First, Grady Wing pounced and intercepted an early cross field pass then ran through to slot the ball past the Loughts’ keeper. Minutes later, Sam Biccarino got the second for City with another deflected finish into the net at a short corner.
Old Loughtonians then started to get back into the game and their pressure forced a short corner, which their captain finished with a superb drag flick high into the corner. Cameron Heald though was not to be outdone in the drag flicking contest. He put his next short corner opportunity away high into the net to make the score 3-1 to City after ten minutes, but the Loughts’ penalty corner expert replied, firing high past a helpless Cameron Goodey to reduce the deficit to a single goal again. Importantly though, City captain Cameron Heald was able to grab an important fourth just before half time from an individual run and shot.
Being 4-2 up at halftime, Mike Yeoman reminded the Peterborough Boys how close they were to making the National Finals. He urged them to give everything for the cause and not throw away the position that they had rightly earned.
It was however the Old Loughtonians captain again that scored next, with his third short corner drag flick of the game. The score then remained at 4-3 for some time, with both teams defending well and City keeping a good shape in a defensive press frustrating many of the Old Loughtonians efforts to break them down. A number of short corners from Old Loughtonians were also thwarted by Cameron Goodey who decided to run first at the shorts and on a couple of occasions he ran down the dangerous drag flicker and stifled the shots before they flew towards the goal.
With five minutes to go though, another Lought’s penalty corner was charged down this time by Cameron Heald who stole the ball on the top of the City “D” and sprinted down field 1 on 1 with the keeper. All thought he would calmly score, but the Old Lought’s keeper made a good save, only for Grady Wing to pick up the loose ball and drive it into the goal to put City of Peterborough 5-3 up.
The next action was all from the umpire (actually a well-known Essex umpire with strong ties to Old Loughtonians). The captain of the Old Loughtonians Team was yellow carded for his second (or probably third) obvious drilling offence. Immediately after, at the frustration of dropping two goals behind again and losing his most dangerous player, the old Loughtonians coach appeared to make some ill-judged comments to the umpire and was asked to leave the bench and hall.
The two minute suspension went without City being able to capitalise. However, almost straight after Old Loughtonians were returned to full strength, they managed to score their fourth goal from a penalty corner, this time after slipping the ball quickly away from the advancing Goodey and shooting past the remaining City defenders. Old Loughtonians then scored again in the 28th minute from free play to tie the game at 5-5.
With City of Peterborough now desperate only to not lose the game that they had led throughout, the boys were solid and exemplary in their defence all round. Special mention should go to Simon King, not a natural forward, but he was asked to run and run up front to pressure the Lought’s defence for the last few minutes which he did.
This had been a fantastic game of indoor hockey, end to end, with great skill in attack and resolution in defence shown from all players. The last minute goal that settled the game though was definitely a fitting end to this great game. It started as Sam Biccarino won a crucial tackle just outside the Peterborough “D” and then stepped through the midfield on the left hand side, then switched and drifted strongly right. Now, instead of slipping the ball into the opposition “D” from outside he took the decision to beat another player, drive into the “D” and against all odds he fired the ball into the corner of the goal to effectively win the game for Peterborough.
This result left City of Peterborough in “Position A” with 6 points from their two games, and one foot in the National Finals.
City of Peterborough 4 – Harleston Magpies 4
Surprisingly, City went into the final game knowing that they still needed a result from the final game to win the tournament and even that they could still possibly not finish as runners up, if they had a poor result. The obvious position was that a draw was good enough to win the championship, but the statisticians in the City of Peterborough supporters had also worked out that City would be second if they lost, but even worse could still finish third if they lost by three or more goals to Harleston Magpies.
With the carrot of the possible qualification for the Nationals, the Harleston Magpies team pushed City from the start of the game, and it was only some good saves from Cameron Goodey that kept the scores level through the first five minutes. It was however Harleston that scored a low drag flick penalty corner to go 1-up.
Cameron Heald responded with a fine individual goal from free play to tie the scores at 1-1 in the seventh minute, but some sloppy defending in the next few minutes and persistence from the Magpies team put them 3-1 up already with only 10 minutes gone on the clock.
At this point, City of Peterborough were not only losing the championship, but they were now just one more goal from missing their ticket to the National Finals. It fell then to the City captain Heald to pull it back. He scored one short corner goal with a high drag flick finish before half time to go into the break 2-3 down.
There was no panic at half time, but all were focused on the goal not just to qualify for Nationals, but to win the tournament. A seemingly endless period of pressure from the whole City team resulted in a series of short corners being awarded. All the City attempts were blocked, mainly by brave defence from Magpies who put bodies in front of at least four drag flicks from Cameron Heald and took the bruises for it. Eventually, with five minutes to go Heald managed to slam the ball into the goal from a slipped short corner to tie the game. A minute later, Grady Wing scored a good goal from free play to put City ahead for the first time at 4-3 in the game and effectively into the National Finals.
They were however left with a nervous last two minutes, as Simon King got a yellow card suspension after his desperate last man tackle was judged to be a foul and a penalty flick. Harleston scored from the stroke (4-all) to set up 90 seconds of City of Peterborough needing to hold on to draw the game and win the Championship.
This was however seen off without too many concerns. Sam Biccarino made two excellent tackles, and then Cameron Heald took control and kept the ball for what seemed an age, until Harleston were forced to dive in and foul him. As the ball rolled away from the foul, the final seconds ticked away and City of Peterborough knew that they had not only qualified for the National Finals, but they had won the Championship.
City of Peterborough Squad
- Cameron Heald (captain)
- Cameron Goodey (GK)
- Bob Cliffe
- Grady Wing
- Leo Davies
- Sam Biccarino
- Scott Howard
- Simon King
Left to Right Back Row – David Heald (team manager), Simon King, Grady Wing, Sam Biccarino, Bob Cliffe, Mike Yeoman (coach)
Middle Row – Scott Howard, Cameron Heald (captain), Leo Davies
Front (laying) – Cameron Goodey (GK)