After a week off for half-term because even England Hockey has got woke (woken up…? How do you say that?) Woking returned to action with a trip to the sunny Kent coast for a hotly anticipated clash against fellow strugglers Sittingbourne (who definitely aren’t Old Bordenians any more.)
After an incident free mini-bus journey where nothing controversial was said and the behaviour from everyone was exemplary, followed by a quick trip to a Sainsbury’s that this reporter would give a solid 6/10, our Heroes soon found themselves in a cramped changing room with no loo roll. More on the disappointing hosting later.
Coach Casson delivered his instructions. He claimed that “this was the strongest team the club had had in years” and who am I but a humble reporter to disagree with the wise wisdom of Ryan “The Wise One” Casson? He is very wisdomous. He probably said some other important stuff, but all I really remember is him mentioning “winning” and “bants on the bus home”. I bet you’ll never guess what happened…
The match was won before a whistle was blown or a ball hit in anger. The returning club stalwart, former captain and Heat Magazine’s “31st Most Desirable Midlander who now Lives in Bagshot” Andrew Barton’s warm-up attire united the side in bemusement, before Tom McLean gave another history lesson which apparently inspired us..? Meanwhile, Sittingbourne did a more conventional warm-up. An error if I ever saw one.
As expected, the Boys in (the retired sky) Blue took the lead early on. Good work by Tom Goodwin to steal in front of his defender created an opening. After his shot was well saved, the ball dribbled dramatically towards the line where James “Pikey would be proud” Fookes definitely didn’t steal the goal.
This was a long away trip though, and the Goldsworth Park outfit didn’t come all this way to cruise to victory. Sure enough, ten minutes later the leveller arrived after a short corner was well saved by Max Deeley but the rebound was well finished high into the net.
Pressure from the Kent side continued. The conditions favoured the home side, as the pasty Surrey boys struggled to navigate the blistering coastal sun, and centre-back Craig Alder struggling to run through treacle.
Mat “Bad Boy of a Generic Boy Band” Cockerham saw green which didn’t overly help the defensive efforts and breakthroughs nearly came as not one, but two Sittingbourne attempts were well cleared off the line by The Handsome Sweepers™, Barton and Harrison “Doesn’t live in a Cupboard” Hubbard. Further saves from Deeley kept the scores even, but it wasn’t all one-way traffic. Woking forced a string of short corners and athletic stops from the opposing keeper.
With half time approaching, Woking again found themselves with a short corner. After a routine that this reporter didn’t fully understand or see because he was being brilliantly punny on the bench, Goodwin (I think?) ended up slipping the ball to Alex “Amy Winehands” Curry to deflect into an empty net at the back post. A huge boost heading into Coach Casson’s half-time team talk and Woking, more importantly, hand something to defend.
Defend they did, just like in whichever battle McLean had spoken with such passion before the match. I’d have thought he’d speak more on his own great battle in Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve in the late 80s, but the sign of a great leader is not mentioning personal victories.
The tireless efforts were rewarded when, with about 20 minutes to go, the outstanding Juli Blaszkiewicz yet again tormented the Sittingbourne defence and this time roughly 5 of the home side hacked him down. The stroke awarded and duly (juli, get it?) dispatched by our young Polish international.
Most encouragingly for Woking was how they finished the game (probably? I don’t know. This was the first time I’d seen them this season.)
Improved game management meant the ball was retained with ease - except for a signature Barton pass to a willing centre forward - and whenever the home side did start gaining a little bit of momentum, the Boys in Blue could rely on experienced players “who find a bit of joy in cheating” (I’m guessing I can’t use the actual work on Pitchero…) to frustrate the sea-dwellers some more. In truth, if either side was going to score it was going to be Woking who looked like they had more gears to shift into if required.
Full-time saw a deserved first 3 points of the season for the Casson Crew and they will head into next week’s game against Sean Pearcy and his friends with renewed confidence.
Afterwards (and definitely not right now as he’s typing this report) Barton said, “it’s satisfying coming all this way and picking up the 3 points. Everyone played their part and gave their all. If you want an example, look at Mat Ming. He’s more blood than skin at the minute and I think he’s even lost a few fingernails that’ll need supergluing back on. Hopefully this is the kickstart to the season that we need. The talent in this team can match anyone in this league, it’s just a matter of being consistent.”
Match teas- Marcus Rashford has worked tirelessly to ensure that our most vulnerable are fed properly over the last year or so and was rightly praised and recognised for his work. I can, therefore, only assume that if he, like us, had undertaken the laborious 135.8mile round trip to only be given a SINGLE sausage with baked beans with optional French stick, he would have been disheartened.
Man of the Match – In a remarkable 3-way tie, Juli “we can’t umpire you because you’re too good” Blaszkiewicz, Mat “Now releasing a solo album” Cockerham and Andrew “How to Lose a Guy in 595 days” Barton all tied. Juli and Cockers for being terrific at hockey, and Barton because Woking Hockey club are considering applying for charity status and need to show that they are inclusive and that anyone can achieve, even those who are less able.
Dick of the Day ¬– A remarkably tight affair given the level of brain cells that the mini-bus clearly didn’t have. Shout-out to Bloomers for only paying £11.50 for rent and rates per month and Barts for unashamedly wearing a Blink-182 cut-off shirt to warm up in despite a lack of anything resembling muscle, but Craig “THEY ARE DEFINITELY ADDING SERVICE CHARGE. I BOUGHT TWO PINTS FOR £5.70 EACH AND THE BILL CAME TO £12.83” Alder for a number of misdemeanours that will remain confidential.
Is Woking Men’s 1st XI good at gagging and binding misbehaving players? – Yes.
The Reporters Overview – Support this team. They deserve it and you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.