“Maybe next year!”
Maidenhead Merlins 3 (2) Maidenhead Ladies 1s 9 (4)
The “mighty” Merlins took on the “lovely” Ladies 1s in their traditional post-Christmas match. Some of the older Merlins have described the fixture as tough as the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, rather than a reference to their seasonally expanded waistlines.
The Ladies pitched-up looking refreshed after the mid season break, whereas the Merlins appeared to have one eye on the customary beer and nibbles after the match – albeit they set about to play their more attacking style of hockey which has been a feature this season. The Merlins had drafted in by invitation only some additional manpower including honorary Merlins from seasons past to bolster the team and bring the numbers up to 14.
The Ladies started the game brightly moving the ball quickly around the pitch, which took some of the Merlins back to “days gone by” when they were once able to do this. The Merlins could at times simply watch in awe as Jane “Smithy” Smith showed her class and the Merlins breathed a sigh of relief (or should I say an intake of oxygen) when she took herself back to the bench. Undeterred, some of the Merlins were clearly up for the fight led by Dave “Heartburn” Rennie rolling back the years and ably supported by young Sam “Anti-acid” Rennie who set about causing the Ladies problems in midfield linking well with winger Chris "third born" Miall. However, it was only a matter of time before the stoic (rotational) 3-man defence of Doug “Father Christmas” Courtney, Dave “DV” Vincent, Noel “Spud” Murphy, Marc “Mystic” Jones and Alistair “Chopper” Draper succumbed to the pressure and Ronnie “the Cat” Fuller’s goal was breached.
The Merlins rallied behind coach Simon “Dad” Miall’s calls of "push on" and it was not long before young Rhys “Whirling Dervish” Edwards was on hand (as he has been for most of the season) to level the score at 1:1 to the cheers of Gary “that’s my boy” Edwards. The Ladies responded quickly and they again found the net to re-take the lead. However, the Merlins were not beaten which was epitomised by the tireless running and pace of George “Braveheart” Wallace who got behind the Ladies defence and crossed the ball into the D for “Monsieur” Mathieu Lemonnier to bring the scores level. There were cries from the Merlins supporters to call it a day in order to give the Ladies a chance and head back to the clubhouse early – but to no avail! The Ladies were clearly spurned on by the Merlins second goal and it was not long until the Merlins dogged midfield (ably marshalled by tireless Ben “first born” Miall) was overrun and they cut through the Merlins defence (whose combined age almost equalled that of the entire Ladies team) to concede two more goals.
At half time, coach Simon rallied his troops with “Merlins you’re still in this game” (but sadly he was left eating his words over a pint and a slice of lemon drizzle cake afterwards), as the Ladies scored another five. The Merlins did respond with a sweetly struck reverse stick shot from “Monsieur” Mathieu to pull one back, but it was in vain. This year did not see the “Clash of Clans” between “third born” Miall and the Ladies’ Bex “second born” Miall, who got one over her younger sibling with a goal in the last second of the match.
The Merlins and the Ladies regrouped at the clubhouse after the match for beverages and frivolity – where on good authority the Ladies accepted that the game had been much closer than the score line suggested! In fact, “Merlins have scored one more goal in each successive year for the last three years, which is irrefutable evidence of real progress,” said coach Simon on receiving his well deserved Man of the Match award (2 minutes on the pitch and 2 weeks organising the match). Some say that the Merlins players were heard mentioning that they could not wait for next year’s match – others say that it could have been the drink talking!
Our thanks go to George and JC for volunteering to umpire and their sympathetic application of the rule book. Also to Ali for the excellent sausage rolls and, finally, to whichever lady produced the lemon drizzle cake who she should be on The Great British Bake Off next year.
We wish coach Jane Smith and all the Ladies 1s every success for the second part of their campaign and hope they get promoted.
Ladies scorers: Jane Smith (3), Alex Teasdale (2), Ali Lubbuck (2), Emma Evans (1) and Bex Miall (1)
Merlins scorers: Mathieu Lemonnier (2) Rhys Edwards
Updated 17:13 - 3 Feb 2017 by Maidenhead Hockey Club