The Redbridge Men’s 1s travelled to Crawley in the hope this would be their penultimate game of the season, with the expectation of heading to Lea Valley for the Cup final in April/May (whenever it was – who actually cares now?)
The morning started with the perfect balance of excitement, drama, stupidity and focus.
Every time I read on BBC Sport, “this player misses this game due to picking up a knock in training”, I now know what this means. Koolio, picking up the classic “knock” on Saturday, ruling him out of Sunday’s semi-final. There were also the usual empty threats from Andy threatening to leave certain key players behind, of course the thought of this – unimaginable.
There was drama with shorts too. The self-appointed DJ of Redbridge and Ilford hockey club, Dylan decided to show everyone he really is the rebel of the squad. Rocking up with no green shorts, only untraditional (and let’s face it – better) black shorts. Suffice to say Coach Carter (Adrian in case anyone had to figure that out) was not pleased. A call to #DJDylan’s home later, no green shorts anywhere to be seen – the focus now laid truly on the game.
Adrian came up with a less tactical team talk than usual, and emphasised more about the importance of effort and pride for this particular game. In fact, I haven’t heard many coaches describe their team a “bunch of misfits”, moments before heading in to a cup semi- final. To be fair though – it’s not the most inaccurate description of the team, and he did say we could use this to our advantage (nice save).
We walked on the pitch, and saw a team that probably wouldn’t be described as misfits- just your carefully selected high school jocks from across Sussex, rounded in to one finely selected team.
Warm up done (with all of us in our team hoodies), coin toss done, the usually pumping each other with gibberish done – the semi-final was under way. As this is my match report- this is how I will describe how the game went (and safe to say- it’s probably 99% correct):
Crawley started the game stronger than us. They had a series of short corners, and attacking play that we were struggling to contain. A series of fine saves by Charlie, solid defending from the back four (shout-out to both JP and Mike at CB) kept the score at 0-0.
After holding Crawley out for most the 1st half, Redbridge began to find their feet, and did look dangerous on the counter attack. Andy managed to also win a short corner, but nothing came of it.
Crawley managed to break the deadlock with a drag flick, and made it two on the stroke of halftime with another short corner. Crawley did deserve to be in the lead at half time, and 2-0 maybe a fair reflection of this.
Half- time team talk later, Redbridge came out with more urgency and a neat reverse strike from Happy after some nice baseline work from #DJDylan, halved the deficit. This whilst Crawley were down to 10 men (I lost count on their yellow cards in the end), offered Redbridge hope. However, Redbridge could not make this brief and rare period of pressure count, and Crawley turned it on to score a few more short corners and open play goals. Pretty sure said open play goals came from their unbelievably quick right back. Crawley added 5 more to their 2 in the first half and the final whistle blew at 7-1. This probably an unfair reflection on the game, which was evenly, balanced up to mid second half.
However, Crawley were a fitter, stronger and more well drilled side than us. Probably a good way to describe them is as an easy Prem A/B side in East League (yet somehow Div 3 in Sussex). As Coach Carter did say at the end – it wouldn’t be right for us to say we deserved to be in the final. It also showed us the work we must put in on and off the field if we want to realistically compete against teams like Crawley.
I would like to say I will be reporting one more final match report for the Cup final (because let’s face it – I would have got DoD for that game too), but won’t be. Reflecting on the season, it would probably be best summarised as a “nearly” season. Nearly getting promoted, and nearly getting to the final – but we didn’t…so will have to wait until next season.
A final shout out to everyone that came to Crawley and supported the team. It may have been a mild spanking we received, but I am sure I speak on behalf of the team when I say it was still a memorable game for us.
Team: Charlie, JP, Mike, Aneel, Elliot, Aidie, Andy, Josh, Taz, Happy, #DJDylan,, Ian, Sunny, Matt Smylie, Konrad, Marc