Queen Porter's Coronation
Are you not entertained? Marlow U18 Boys Crowned National Champions
It was no surprise that the EH Cup's 'great entertainers' drew a sizeable and vocal crowd to Lee Valley for their National Tier 1 Final against Bournemouth. The Red Army more than made up for the dour weather with their inexhaustible passion. Many thanks to Jo Rees for organising a supporter's coach, and to everyone who turned up to back the boys.
Preparations for the game began with the boys impressing the crowd with their unconventional football warm-up, with Andy 'Quadzilla' Barton exhibiting skills which haven't improved at all since the start of the season, despite extensive practice and coaching from Mrs Porter. The only hiccup in their pre-match preparations was the announcer stumbling on Lewis Cadinoosh's name, as the boys walked out to a thunderous reception from the Red Army.
Both teams started the game tentatively, with Marlow struggling to break down the Bournemouth defence, despite lots of possession. BDN and Jawnny's collective inability to pick anything bouncy led to several rapid counter attacks from Bournemouth, although thankfully Max 'Toby' Ellis was able to repel their early efforts. Marlow's standard defensive fragility would haunt them early on, as a severely misplaced pass from Nico Cheeseman gave Bournemouth a chance to break through. The Bean-Pole Brothers compounded Nico's error with some typically loose challenges, showing none of the robustness that Doug's fitness sessions had given them, and Bournemouth had a free shot on goal, which they duly slotted in past Max's short legs into the bottom corner.
Marlow found themselves in a familiar position, having kept just the one clean sheet, months ago in the competition's first round. Fortunately, the team, and the crowd, knew that the boys had the ability to score goals, having scored an average of more than 1 goal every 9 minutes throughout the previous rounds of the competition. Following excellent goal line saves from Ed 'Hero' Tyler and Max 'Ivor' Ellis, Marlow began to threaten again, pushing forward with a mix of Jawlian 'Murray' Whitaker's silky skills, and Charlie Thrush's not-so-silky skills. Several excellent saves from the Bournemouth keeper denied Greedy Greg, BDN and Cam 'Fitness' Beazley-Clarke, whose model deflection hit the inside of the post, but was swept away before it could cross the line.
A pattern emerged throughout the first half, as Marlow dominated possession and kept the pressure on Bournemouth, with fluid attacking moves coming from excellent interplay between Toby 'Fitness' Hill and photogenic Harvey Fraser leading to plenty of efforts on goal, all of which were repelled by excellent blocking and keeping. The score remained 1-0 to Bournemouth as the teams headed inside for half time.
Whilst social media guru Matt Bilsland was busy interviewing spectators, Kate Porter, who had taken time out of her busy U14 girls coaching schedule to be with the boys, and Sean Dyche Kevin Small-Church, made sure to motivate the boys, exuding a previously unseen calmness. Marlow's best (ever) took to the field again, ready for the last 35 minutes of junior hockey that some of them would ever play, and they set about their task with a renewed vigour and confidence, backed by the vociferous crowd, and Tom Grey.
Marlow's dominance from the first half continued, as probing runs forward from Josh 'Schwarzenegger' Hodgkins and Louis 'not so Schwarzenegger' Cadinouche led to lots of chances at the Bournemouth end. Still, nothing would cross the line, as Bournemouth settled deeper and deeper into their own half to defend their narrow lead. As heart rates on the sidelines continued to rise, Marlow kept pushing forwards, and despite every attempt being repelled, their fitness work started to show, as Bournemouth simply could not keep up with them, especially Nico '1000 yards' Cheeseman, who terrorised the Bournemouth defenders with his pace and aggression.
At times the team felt like they were just running into a wall repeatedly, never getting past a seemingly immovable obstacle. Even when Charlie 'Mumble' Thrush was sent off in the 59th minute, Marlow stayed on top, with outstanding passing between Not Vice-Captain Ed, his brother, Murray's Brother and Tom 'P-flick' Sheldon. There was a deafening roar minutes later as Josh 'Passion' Hodgkins won a penalty stroke, and it was the Set-Piece Specialist Tom Sheldon who stepped up to take it. In the interests of entertainment and general banter, Tom proceeded to roll the ball into the bottom corner, allowing the keeper to make a standard save. That would be the death knell for most teams, the final straw to break the camel's back, but the fact that they just wouldn't give up was testament to the resilience and togetherness of the Marlow boys, as well as the leadership of the squad's veterans.
With just 7 minutes remaining, Kim Jong Porter decided that BDN would be a more effective goalkeeper than Max, and the boys looked to take advantage of their numerical superiority. The improvement was significant and immediate, as Louis received a difficult pass from Ed 'Visionary' Tyler, nutmegged a defender, and was clattered by the onrushing Bournemouth goalkeeper, who was duly sent off. In the 65th minute of the game, there's nobody else you can call on but BDN to take a penalty. Redeeming his loose passing from earlier on in the game, he duly dispatched the ball into the top corner past the kicking back, levelling the game and eliciting an ear-splitting barrage of noise from the raucous crowd. With 5 minutes to play, and no keeper in the Bournemouth goal, Marlow once again showed why they deserve their reputation as entertainers. Following a penalty corner, won through a phase of outstanding total hockey, BDN was to step up yet again, hoping to give Marlow a late lead. Not wanting to let all the shuffle practice of the last few weeks go to waste, Nick sent a weak effort right into the waiting stick of the Bournemouth kicking back. The game ended 1-1.
A dramatic shuffle finale to a dramatic cup run awaited, with Marlow's belief in the process never more unshakeable, having practised extensively against the outrageously talented Daisy Hacking, and also Max.
Bournemouth scored their first effort, as did Marlow, with Tom Sheldon redeeming his earlier misdemeanours with a sweet nutmeg. There is no one that anyone would rather have in a shootout than Max 'Big Game' Ellis, who pulled out an excellent save of Bournemouth's second attempt, and Cool Cam delivered his signature move to put Marlow 2-1 up after two shuffles. In a match in which both goalkeepers excelled, Max stepped up once again, and made yet another magnificent save to leave France's greatest export with the chance to heap even more pressure on Bournemouth. Cheeky Cadinouche takes no prisoners, and having sent the Bournemouth keeper into central London with a naughty left to right, for the first time in his career he decided against cutting back and giving the keeper another go, and slotted the ball home. Sadly, the Club's best twins didn't get the chance to take their shuffles. Seconds later, Max Ellis was the hero of the moment, as he managed his arousal levels perfectly and made his third consecutive shootout save to win the National Final for the first time in Marlow's history.
Max was consequently mobbed by fans and players, before Kate was thrown into the air by her adoring team. History had been made, much to the delight of all the friends, family members and devoted club members in the stands. Lee Valley has (probably) never been louder than the moment Captain Greedy and Queen Kate lifted the national cup.
Man of the Match was Max 'Legend' Ellis, with BDN and Jawlian narrowly missing out, whilst Donkey of the Day was split between Thrushy and Sheldo.
Huge credit has to go to Queen Kate Porter, and Kevin 'Glory Supporter' Chappell, as well as injured Murray Whitaker, who was a calming influence on the bench during the final, and one of the reasons that Marlow progressed so far into the competition. It has been amazing for the team to have so many supporters throughout their run to the final, with support from parents, family and friends and of course, the Reading girls, who stayed to cheer after winning their own final. Finally, the team would like to thank England Hockey for such a fantastic event, as well as the umpires for making the game so enjoyable.