Let’s set the scene: it was a beautiful day; the sun was shining, and we were ready for the most competitive game of hockey UWMXDHC has ever played! Fast forward 6 hours and the sun had set, it had gotten cold and we had all (well, almost all) decided to start our warm up in the changing room instead of braving the weather.
We weren’t entirely sure what the atmosphere was going to be like – we just knew that for the first time this year, we’d have to deal with an actual crowd watching. When we arrived at the pitch, there were people everywhere. Coventry blue had spread like a virus across the pitch. There were players warming up in both halves, a keeper in each goal and bags everywhere. We trudged over to the opposite side of the pitch to make sure we were well away from any potential muggings whilst substitutions were being made – over to the much calmer (and infinitely more witty) Warwick crowd.
15 minutes of warming up later the captains were summoned – with Coventry winning the toss and deciding to take the first push back. Everyone was called in and as we huddled round last-minute speeches were given. I’m sure it was a tactical decision to calm everyone down, but Izzy decided we needed to take some pictures before the match.
The first half started off slowly with both teams testing the water before a wonderful pass from midfield into me up front wasn’t picked up by the Coventry defence. A quick charge into the box resulted in a 1 on 2. The keeper (who had over-committed) was rounded easily leaving just the defender on the goal line. Instead of using his stick to stop the ball, the defender decided to stick a foot out and stop it on the goal line before clubbing it off the side of the pitch. The umpire, who was also from Coventry, being unable to tell the difference between a stick and a foot allowed play to continue with a sideline hit with the score remaining 0-0.
A few minutes later we had another breakaway attack. This time, Eddie played a long ball down the right sideline, right in front of the Warwick fans, for Alex to run onto. After gliding past his marker, Alex ran along the baseline and played a dangerous looking ball across the box. The Coventry defence, who by this point still hadn’t learnt that they have sticks for a reason, ended up kicking the ball into their own goal.
Play continued with much of the attack flowing down the edges of the pitch where the overlapping runs from Eddie and Izzy in the fullback positions were causing havoc with the Coventry defence. However, all this pressure didn’t amount to any more goals with Coventry successfully scrambling back to cut anything out. The umpires eventually ended the half and we headed over to the goal as the team on top, albeit with a narrow lead.
We started the second half much more strongly than the first. Nick substituting on up front gave us some fresh legs up top and stretched the play for the midfield. 2 minutes after the pushback, we had our first short corner. With none of the people regularly involved in the short corner on the pitch, it was on to plan B – hit and hope. A slick injection allowed us to get a shot off quickly. The keeper half saved it while Chris was on his toes enough to score a screamer off the rebound into the middle of the goal from 3 yards out – 2-0 Warwick.
With so many attacking players, we decided to stay on the front foot. With Aaran spinning round players left right and centre and Holly putting it through people’s legs then running onto it, Coventry had no answer to our midfield. A few minutes later and we had the ball in the back of the net again. Nick successfully beat his man, went one on one with the keeper, DIDN’T CRAMP UP, got to the ball and slotted home an absolute banger from within 2 metres. 3-0 to Warwick.
It was at this point, things started to go wrong. Realising they couldn’t win the midfield battle with Luke running rings around them, Coventry switched tactics from ‘ball or man’ to ‘just take the man’. An aerial into the space from Eddie saw Luke and some fat bloke from Cov running to get to the where the ball was going to land first. Neither did, both ended up on the floor. Luke, having much less natural protection than the C-tech student, came off worse with the umpire having to stop time until Luke was off the pitch.
Things started to become a lot more even. We started giving away needless free hits and losing possession in key areas. With 5 minutes to go, we gave away a short corner. To Tommy’s wonderful rendition of “I’ve never seen Cov score a goal” up stepped a player from their Men’s 1s… drag flick, 3-1. We gave away another short corner… drag flick 3-2 - thanks for that Tommy. Deciding we’d built enough suspense for the final few minutes, we stopped giving the goals away and parked the bus. Switching to a half-court press (thanks for teaching us that one Luke) and making Coventry force it through 11 players before they could score was always going to ask too much of people who can only count to 6. Some trademark time wasting from Billy who knew that there was absolutely no way it would even be possible to take a sideline ball with so many Coventry supporters around him saw the match end 3-2 (although I probably should have checked their captain could count that high to make sure they knew it wasn’t a draw).
A massive well done to all the players and thank you to everyone that came to watch – you were all incredible from start to finish