A Tale of Three 'Ho'sJim Hall
One could be forgiven for thinking that this game was going to be a complete wash out, Saturday morning started with a rain storm, the opposition, the Nomads 3's were sitting nicely on top of the league, 6 for 6, no draws, no losses, and more than one of the South 6s decided to turn up with the wrong kit, or even without their trainers! *Cough Cough Jo Dant Cough Cough* Before PB it was clear to see from the Nomads line up their success so far had mainly been down to a very youthful line up, pace across their whole squad with only a handful of more distinguished players, who themselves were very useful on the ball.
But you would be wrong to assume this was a given formality for the Nomad team. The pre-game antics were merely a clever ploy to fool the Nomads to thinking we had already mentally departed for Christmas! The 6's had come off of the back of a very decent win last weekend, seeing the return of new Dad Mr Jelley to a South side and with the timely injection of the Ho brothers into the squad, each line looked to have really good depth.
The two returning Ho brothers Pip and Laurie slotted into the back line with their dad Ky making a fearsome wall alongside captain Andy and Will, that was rarely broken. Pip found particular joy down the right hand side giving the Nomads an absolutely torrid time, dribbling, picking out the opposition feet like they were fish in a barrel, and driving Nomads probably best player Will (I've never heard an opposition players name called so many times) into multiple sin bins, more on that later. Laurie was similarly impressive sweeping across the back line and allowing nothing through, making a few excellent breaks on the counter. This wasn't a two-man defence though, Andy, Will and Ky all had very accomplished performances with very few if any mistakes, the passing was crisp, the positioning was assured and most importantly the interceptions were excellent. The turnover numbers, if such statistics existed, would have made for some very delightful reading.
The midfield and forward line saw a return to the side for JBL, alongside 6's regulars, Mr Jelley, Jo Dant, Ian M, Laurie H, Wilco D, and a, some would say; inspired, cheeky, written in the stars, regular flow down Rob Barton. Jim Hall was just happy to be allowed out to run around again; some people say he is still out there chasing balls like a puppy ... some people would be right.
The scene is set, the sun was dancing beautifully across the sky, the rain had gone, there was an excited air in the 6s squad that an upset could be on the cards. The game started tensely with Nomads and South both finding their feet. The early minutes highlighted a few things very quickly, Pip was going to bully anyone who came near him, Nomads had Will, and both teams were very tightly matched. What Nomads youth gave them in energy though was offset by their positioning, gaps began to open up as they bombed forward and the break was on, a feature that pretty much defined the game.
On the 15 minute mark after soaking up some decent pressure from the Nomads deep in our own half, Laurie Ho turned over possession smartly, shifting the ball to his namesake Laurie Haslop who drove at the home defence making them look somewhat like children on their first day of school, lost, alone and frankly scared. Jim broke down the right hand wing taking a pass on the run from Laurie and drove into the D. Rob Barton applying his years of wisdom and experience to the situation moved into the danger zone, occupying the position between defenders and the keeper like a hawk on roadkill. 'Ask and you shall receive' should be Rob's epitaph, after some excellent shouts highlighting his predatory placement, Jim laid of a deft flick through the legs of one defender which Rob was able to delightfully chip over the onrushing diving keeper. 1-0 South. A team goal the M1's would be proud off.
The first half continued in a similar vein, and if not for eagle-eyed eager umpiring South could have been 2-0 up with the ball in the back of the net from a cleverly worked short corner, however the whistle was blown as the shot was taken. Rob was baffled. This would have been his second and would have highlighted South's dominance. A brief period of pressure from Nomads at the end of the first half gave South pause for thought and the half time team talk was very much a case of: this is ours, but if we turn off for even a second, they will punish us.
The second half saw chances at both ends, George Toynton made two excellent saves both from open play, managing to knock the ball down back into the attacker and out, after stopping a rising strike, and a 2nd sprinting out to clear a ball with his feet when left 1 on 1 after a impressively placed aerial ball from the Nomads back line. George showed great awareness to stay alert when mainly left out of the game for large periods. South peppered the Nomads keeper after the break, with 5 or 6 shorts, Pip having one expertly saved on the line and a 2nd narrowly wide. However the drama in the 2nd half was much more down to the exuberance than anything else. The now infamous Nomads Will being pulled back for leading with his shoulder into a tackle, having been frustrated by a highly organised South back line, turned and gave some lip to the umpire, with an obvious result, 2 minutes in the sin bin. Seconds later with Nomads on the break, the heroic and still full of beans Jim Hall saw his opportunity for glory, with an assist already in the bag, why not go for the lemon award too, and how expertly was this achieved. Steaming in like the Blue Mallard*, and stealing the ball with poise and precision, the umpire decided that merited action both teams went down to 10 men. Before even producing a green card and simply shouting 'off' a little pitch confusion ensued. Upon questioning the other umpire it was indeed confirmed that Jim had been green carded for a shoulder charge. A truly lemon worthy moment to question an umpire for why one had been sin binned, especially as the two umpires did a fine job throughout. As the final 10 minutes played out Nomads pressed hard for an equaliser but were rarely able to muster a touch in the D, although having some decent possession just outside. In this period it's also important to highlight that Jo Dant made a couple of cheeky breaks up the right wing, and if for a bit of luck would have ended up in a goal for South. The full time whistle was met with delighted Christmasy smiles from the whole of the 6s squad, and deservedly so - what a win! Oh, and there was a mince pie apiece on offer courtesy of Rob. A truly battling performance which should give the 6s real confidence for the rest of the season.
* for you younger readers, the Blue Mallard is the world record holder for top speed of a steam locomotive at 128mph set in 1938. Yes this is a match report, yes that is a steam train reference. Wonderful.