Southgate Tankards win the John Symon's Memorial Trophy
The Merlin's last match of the season
A hot and humid Saturday lunchtime saw the Merlins entertain Southgate at Altwood Astro in an annual memorial match for the John Symons Trophy.
Initially Southgate were struggling to raise a side but with the combined experience of senior players in both camps the teams managed to cajole players to turn out for a last game (or gasp) of the season. The Merlins also managed to supply Southgate with a ‘keeper (Martin Beardmore ex MHC, now Reading vets) and two umpires George Kenworthy Brown and at the very last minute Bex Miall who was expecting a quiet afternoon supporting the Merlins alongside her father Simon (ex player and current Merlins supporter).
The proceedings were slow to start, partly due to a stray hockey ball having a disagreement with a BMW rear windscreen. The Merlins recognised four or five familiar faces and assumed the remainder would be of similar standard.
Once play was under way this presumption required a rapid reassessment but unfortunately the Merlins are known more for their dinosaur like
With Colin ‘Citog’ Byrne being the ‘baby’ of the defence it was left for him to counteract the Southgate attacks while Doug ‘one hand’ Courtney, Roger ‘Biggles’ Bowes and David ‘DV’ Vincent drew their pensions and chased shadows. An unusually (for Merlins) mobile midfield of David ‘Heartburn’ Rennie, James Bailey and Laurie Shotton managed to make forays into the Southgate twenty three. From one of these a penalty corner was awarded which just passed the post, but on the wrong side!
Southgate were passing the ball around, as experienced players do, and at speed so it was not long before they also won a penalty corner. With a first shot being defended the rebound was collected by Southgate and Ben Scott-Knight fired a looping shot into the goal. Continuing their fast movement Southgate released winger Alistair Mossman down the right and into the circle where a first time shot evaded Ronnie ‘The Cat’ Fuller to put the visitors into a healthy two goal lead. Although Merlins finished the last five minutes of the half strongly with David ‘Heartburn’ Rennie putting a strike just past the post and two penalty corners, it was not enough to alter the half time score.
With keys having been found to switch on the watering system the extended half time was a double edged sword for the Merlins. Time to resupply the lungs with oxygen also allowed the muscles to start stiffening! The usual half time requests to pass the ball early and not to try and run through Southgate’s experienced defenders took until the last quarter to register with the Merlins forwards. With Simon Miall organising the rotation of the substitutes bench the Merlins needed all their fifteen players and Rod Gauld and Kuljit Bhachu supplied a number of good balls to the forwards while George Wallace and Gary Edwards continually harassed the Southgate defenders. The forwards of Rhys Edwards, Nathan Jefferies and Finlay Bainbridge kept Southgate’s defence awake and on another day (without the excellent Beardmore filling the goal) may have dragged the Merlins back into the game – but then maybes don’t show on the scoreboard.
When Southgate controlled the ball they were generally faster and more clinical (although occasionally afflicted by the pass to the opposition disease) and this was neatly demonstrated by the two solo efforts of Hamish Patel, the last just before the final whistle making it 0-4.
Both sides then retired to the Bray clubhouse for the ceremonial duties, which included a port and cheese tea. Adrian Scott-Knight on behalf of Southgate proposed a toast to the Merlins for their hospitality and Bob ‘Jigsaw’ Brown responded on behalf of the Merlins. He also invoked the memory of John Symons who had been a long-term player and supporter of the Merlins and MHC. The John Symons cup was duly presented to Southgate who were briefly allowed to hold it, but as with the ‘Ashes’ it was not allowed to leave Bray. The weekly Man of the Match vote ended in an unusual three way tie between Roger ‘Biggles’ Bowes, Rod Gauld and Rhys Edwards.
Thanks must again go to Simon and Bob for their supporting management roles, to George KB and Bex Miall for their umpiring and to the loyal Merlins supporters on the side line.
And so to next season – Vacancy: Merlins Skipper?