Southgate Tankards 4 - 0 Merlins
Merlins Tankard only half full!
A sunny Saturday morning in mid-September saw the Merlins reconvene after the summer break. Unfortunately that was about as good as the day was going to get for the Merlins. Approaching Southgate for the traditional Port and Stilton game which was being played for the ‘John
Symonds Memorial Trophy’ the clouds began to darken – and not only metaphorically.
Despite the absence of two or three regulars, including the skipper of whom rumours suggested he was dancing round a Totem Pole in deepest Canada in the hope of appeasing the hockey Gods, a squad of thirteen (unlucky?) had been assembled by organiser in chief Marc Jones. Having seen the squad list he had sensibly decided to play for the other vets team, the Mavericks!
Facing a revamped Tankards side, which included a number of colts and younger vets, the Merlins were unsure quite what to expect. However it soon proved that the Tankards earlier start to the season put them streets ahead. The Merlins were as rusty as the Titanic, about as mobile and ended up sinking almost as fast.
The first quarter saw Southgate control the play with some slick passing moves whilst the Merlins tried to chase shadows. A lack of
communication did not help, often leaving Southgate players unmarked or double marked. Even when last ditch defending broke down the
attacks the Merlins defence, unable to see their midfield or forwards in the distance, cleared the ball straight back to the grateful Southgate
Early in the game the Tankards had the ball in the net due to confusion over the whistling from the umpires – on the adjoining pitch.
Gentlemanly conduct ruled and a long corner was awarded to the relief of the Merlins. Sadly they did not learn or take advantage of this good
fortune and two legitimate goals ensued as Southgate players were left unmarked and gave keeper Ronnie “The Cat” Fuller little chance.
Minor improvements were made in the second half but all too often the silky stick skills of Ash Sharma in midfield were smothered by a surfeit
of Southgate players. Similarly Hans “Free” Koppleman was often surrounded by opposition players forcing a hurried clearance. The
younger legs of George “Braveheart” Wallace and Rhys Edwards did manage to penetrate the Southgate circle on a few occasions and force
their defence to actually take a part in the game.
However Southgate were still the dominant force although it took a string of six short corners, the last controlled with back sticks unseen by
the Umpires, to force the third goal. The fourth goal came after an outstanding save from Ronnie “The Cat” Fuller but unfortunately the
follow up shot was even better.
Despite a few frayed tempers on the Merlins side, the match was played in a good spirit for which both Southgate umpires were thanked. The two sides then retired to the bar for teas followed by the Port and Cheese. Although the “John Symonds Trophy” resides only at Maidenhead both it and the “Man of the Match Tankard” were unavailable for the presentation ceremony, which may well cost the skipper dear on his
return from Canada. Despite the absence of the Man of the Match Trophy the award went to Hans “Free” Koppleman following such a
closely run vote that many Opposition Parties would have taken legal action for a recount.
A final musing on the long trip home – the combined ages of the Merlins back three (who will remain nameless) was 195 years. Three of the
Southgate forwards barely managed 50 years!