A bright, blustery day in Bishops Stortford and the intrepid twelve were looking to enjoy the game, play the decent hockey we know we’re capable of and get maximum points.
In the end we accomplished the first two and were robbed of the third!
It did take a while for Berko to find their feet and early Stortford pressure saw us defending staunchly and repelling repeated attacks. Xavi was his usual bundle of energy aided energetically by Hunt, Hugo, Jason and Jamie with strong tackles and goal-line clearances. In midfield the Hodges, father and son, were contributing in defense, Will with his energy and Tupper with calm control. The balance of the game gradually started to change and, with crisp, accurate passing, Berko started putting pressure on at the other end. The Paytons, father and son, were making nuisances of themselves and stretching the Stortford defense (unfortunately Rog was also making himself a nuisance to the umpire but I’ll come back to that). Will G using his pace and skill, Joel and Louis showing composure and maturity in building the attacks. However, the Berko defense couldn’t afford to relax and Stortford continued to press and win numerous penalty corners. Unfortunately, one of these eventually broke the deadlock with a well struck shot in off Jason’s shins inside the left post.
Despite this set back, Berko had the measure of this opposition and it wasn’t long before a beautiful passing move out of defense found Joel high on the right who calmly gave his marker the slip (hope you caught that Cindy! A* GCSE!) and crossed for Rog who showed his class and finished expertly. 1-1 with 5 minutes of the first half remaining and Rog went from hero to villain being awarded a slightly unfair yellow card, his offence not looking much but, in the umpires mind, the damage was done earlier. Berko regrouped and saw out the first half and the first 5 minutes of the second before getting back to full strength.
The second half as a whole was end to end with both sides creating chances and both defenses busy and having to work hard. Xavi was performing miraculous double and triple saves which had the Stortford strikers scratching their heads and earned him Man of the Match! It was Berko who eventually broke the deadlock with a well-worked counter attack down the left and Will H getting the ball to Will G who had a defender and keeper to beat and succeeded on both counts finally slipping the ball between keeper and near post.
From then on, we felt in control and could taste victory. However, it was to the turn of the Berko defense to scratch their heads when an incomprehensible penalty stroke was awarded with 5 to go. “Deliberate” foot in the D? I think the phrase is “deliberate my a**e”. Some of you old fellas will get that one! Still we had to accept it and Xavi was unable to come to the rescue this time.
So the game finished 2-2 and, despite another spirited performance, we couldn’t help but feel we’d had our pockets picked!