On a dark, windy and rainy Saturday lunchtime the Rickmansworth 1st XI prepared to play Luton Town 2’s at the fortress that is RMS. After what can only be described as a slow start to the season, it was crucial for the 1s to win here against (when compared to other teams in Div 5) a very beatable side.
However, the hockey gods shined on the 1s again, as it became clear 2 minutes before push back that they were going to have to play with only 10 men after someone (who shall remain nameless) pulled out on pitchero at 1am that morning. Will Porter, hang your head in shame. To add to the challenge, regular starters Jeff Unger, Jack Lieberman, Andy Bates and Toby Byng all could not make the game leading to debut appearances from Darren Vickers and Ewan Couzins.
Despite this, the team started strongly, on the front foot pressing the Luton defence back deep into their own half. The visitors struggled to work the ball through their midfield, and thanks to tenacious pressing and closing down from the Ricky forward line, Luton were left with only one option; to cannon the ball down the line conceding possession back to the home team.
By working the ball crisply and sharply around the pitch, Ricky were able to open up the Luton defence on the counter attack and were unlucky not to open the scoring through surging runs from Matt Stray, Ewan Couzins and captain Will Pendered.
After winning several short corners in a short space of time (on a slick RMS pitch perfect for converting short corners) it seemed only a matter of time before Ricky would break the deadlock. However, despite some fierce injections and controlled trapping from Darren and Will, the self-proclaimed ‘drag flicker’ Sam Couzins could only manage to find the middle of the Luton keepers pads. Many a chance came and went, with the visitors getting increasingly flustered at how they could be so overrun and dominated by a side with only 1 win to their name all season, playing with only 10 men.
The 2nd half followed a very similar pattern, with the Luton side being pushed closer and closer to their own goal. Golden chances fell to Ewan and Darren, with both drawing close reaction-saves from the formidable opposition keeper. More short-corner opportunities came and went as an increasingly exhausted Rickmansworth struggled to break down the defensive Luton side.
Excluding some short corners, Greg in the Rickmansworth goal was ‘little moore’ (sorry Greg) than a spectator for much of the game. The defensive trio of Andy Moore, Ali Smith and Harry Bird worked tirelessly to nullify any attempt by Luton to escape their own half.
Ultimately, it proved not to be as the game ended in a nail biting 0-0 draw. The reactions of the 2 teams at full time (Luton relieved, Ricky frustrated) said everything about the quality of the performance and effort levels put in by the Ricky side. Surely, with the quality shown in this game, it cannot be long before the 1s begin to climb up the Div 5SW table. With very winnable (albeit must-winnable) games against other teams at the wrong end of the table, it is a crucial 3 or 4 weeks coming up for the 1s.
Special mention goes out to Darren and Ewan for impressive debut performances and to Seb Brust who played his last game for Ricky – his farewell speech shed many a tear at full time. Man of the match goes to Seb who (as ever) gave 110% with a lung-busting performance in the middle of the park. D of the Day goes to, well I think we all know who