Romsey 3rd XI 1-0 Isle of Wight

The opening game of the 2014/15 season saw the Romsey Men’s 3rd XI travel to the Isle of Wight. The two teams had met previously just before the Christmas break in 2011, a match which saw the home side triumph 8-1. The sides who faced each other on Saturday were two different teams and this time it was the visitors who emerged victorious.

The long journey saw the Thirds meet at Romsey at a ridiculous time in the morning, in order to travel to the Red Funnel terminal in Southampton. After the hour ferry journey, Romsey travelled to their home away from home, Subway. Having refuelled, the team made their way down to the Isle of Wight’s pitch, warming up and discussing tactics half an hour before push-back. The 3rd XI were missing stalwart Jon Marsh in the midfield, which saw left half Hugh Davidson move into the vacant position and winger Alex Halcoussis move in turn to cover him. After Captain Matthew Clark’s rousing team-talk, Romsey took to the pitch.

The first half began in the rain, and although Romsey pushed back it was the Isle of Wight who took the initiative at first. Romsey came under pressure early on, with Mark McArdle and Danny Nicoll quickly establishing themselves as Romsey’s key tacklers. McArdle took a hit in the chest as the Thirds successfully defended an early short corner, with Nicoll and Luke Hammond running out to the opposition. As the half wore on, Romsey grew into the game and strong wing-play from Matt Clark and J Robinson saw Romsey create good opportunities. Ben Ellis came close on several occasions on the counter-attack but the Isle of Wight goalkeeper produced some impressive saves to deny the striker an early goal. Romsey continued to look threatening but so did the Isle of Wight, and keeper Lukasz Suleja kept the scores at 0-0 going into half time.

Romsey’s half time team talk established the need to stick to a passing game, and the 3rd XI displayed great composure in the second half as they worked the ball around the opposition’s D in order to engineer more opportunities. The rain did not let up in the second half, and neither did the two teams. Justin Ross-Baines brought boundless energy to the midfield and helped create opportunities for youngster Zak Cooper and “Matchey” Lincoln. Both youth players performed excellently, with Cooper coming close with an audacious deflection, and this demonstrates Romsey’s commitment to bringing young players through to senior level hockey. Romsey dominated much of the second half, with Chris Harwood making strong runs into the Isle of Wight’s D and the midfield duo of Nicoll and Davidson sending strong strikes to either post. Ben Ellis continued to be a nuisance to the opposition, and it was he who popped up with Romsey’s second half winner.

After going ahead, the Thirds continued to play the way they had been but faced a bombardment from the Isle of Wight in the last 5-10 minutes. Although Romsey were dangerous on the break, the end of the second half required resolute defending from the back three of Halcoussis, McArdle and Hammond. The defence were greatly helped by the midfield, in particular Danny Nicoll, whose man of the match performance helped ensure Romsey claimed the three points. In the dying minutes the Isle of Wight won short-corner after short-corner and Lukasz Suleja’s made as great an impact in organising his defence as with his shot-stopping. A final whistle short corner was eventually cleared by Romsey, and relief accompanied a tough but deserved victory.

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