Sunday 5th November will go down as a red letterday in the history of Cambridge South – the first junior matches in the club’s80+ year history. The Girls’ U14 side were hosting St Neots and Shefford &Sandy at Long Road in the opening weekend of England Hockey’s 7-a-sideDevelopment Championship competition.
With the pitch unavailable until the afternoon, it was1.30pm before fixtures could get underway. South were able to bring a maximumsquad of ten players, with nine outfielders for six positions and a goalkeeper,and enthusiasm to play was such that we could have brought more.
Cambridge South’s first ever junior representativesassembled at 1pm, ready in their purple club playing T-shirts, dark shorts andskirts and purple socks. Juniors Secretary, Neil, was on hand to distributepin-on shirt numbers and help the keeper with her kit while two players fromour senior ladies’ teams, Dani and Lauren, had come to act as team managers, planningthe formation and organising the substitutions. Club Welfare Officer, Jack, waspresent to do some very important bib-holding.
Also in attendance were our volunteer umpires, Laurie, Andiand Guy – who had diplomatically suggested that he umpire the game that hisdaughter, Charlotte, was not playingin, more in his own interests in avoiding any wrath from a wrong decision thanthose of impartiality I believe.
After the downpour at the previous day’s training session, wewere thankfully spared any further soakings on a bright and crisp afternoon.The fixtures got underway with South taking on a very practised Shefford &Sandy side. Their familiarity and cohesion gave them a strong advantage and by half-time,the visitors had built a substantial lead against the debutant Southerners, whowere still working on gelling as a team – a situation exemplified at Shandy’sfirst penalty corner when some confusion about roles meant none of the Southdefenders ran to the injected ball!
However, improvement was rapid and the second twenty minuteswere a much different affair, with South competing more strongly and giving theShandy keeper some work to do. The visitors did score another couple with someskilful individual play but South were able to reply with their first (ever!)goal, and plenty of encouragement to take away.
While Shefford & Sandy and St Neots contested the secondmatch, also won by the strong Shandy side, the Cambridge South players took theopportunity for some team practice on the unused half of the pitch. Lauren madean unscheduled and sooner than expected return from her recent injury, and provedthat it is possible to play hockey in leather calf boots, while Dani showed herusual commitment and determination in her tackles – seemingly making only aslight concession to the age of her opponents!
The final fixture of the afternoon was Cambridge Southagainst St Neots, played with the aid of floodlights under the fading sky. South’sform continued its improvement from their previous game in a well-contested match.Both keepers were called into action and there were some great saves andclearing kicks from the Cambridge stopper. The difference between the teams wasmost apparent in St Neots’s sharper finishing, which saw them gradually build alead, but the last word went to the home team, which broke through the St Neotsdefence to score the final goal of the afternoon.
Despite not winning, the South players greatly enjoyed theirfirst experience playing together as a team and their very noticeableimprovement over the two fixtures. Thank you to everyone who came along to play,coach, umpire and support. We look forward to more fixtures, and more CambridgeSouth junior teams taking to the field in the future.