RHC 2nd XI set off for Farnham for a 4pm fixture on a wintry December afternoon.  Played under lights throughout, frost was not that far away.  Aldershot & Farnham 3rd XI, our opponents, were promoted as runners up to RHC 2nd XI two seasons ago.  However, last season’s results 3-3(H) and 0-6(A) ensured that RHC could not afford to be complacent.

Good 1st & 2nd XI availability ensured that RHC were able to travel with 14.  In defence: a back three of Ben M, Rob N and Ben D with Rob K as sweeper.  In midfield: Connor O’D and Art B wide, with Ali N, Zac C and Tom W central.  In attack:  Mozza S-S.  Initial substitutes:  Jamie S (def), Archie (wide mf) and Sam B (fwd/mf).  Pre match, Ali N briefed his plans, in particular, stressing the need to maintain our five-man midfield shape and to use the ball at pace.  Players seemed to be listening and, following a rather short warm-up, took to the field determined to build on last week’s fine performance.

In this respect, RHC could not have started better.  With barely a minute gone, Mozza chased an apparently lost cause high on the left, dived forward and sent a reverse stick screamer across the D.  Tom W arrived at just the right moment, the goalkeeper did not move, and the ball flew into the net; 1-0.  Buoyed by this start, RHC really started to tick, it was clear to see the formation, there was always strength in depth, sensible passes were made and the pace was simply too much for less dynamic opposition.  Minutes later, it was 3-0 to RHC with both Zac C and Ali N finding the net.  Play continued in this vein for the first quarter of the match.  However, A&F then woke up and, aided by some poor passing by RHC, started to apply pressure themselves.  Nigel K in goal produced a fine diving save and RHC defence had to contend with several penalty corners; all producing viable shots.  The game then really started to flow from end to end, RHC scored two further goals through Zac C and Art B and even had one goal ruled out, much to everyone’s surprise.  RHC’s team play was excellent; a joy to see and to play in.  5-0 up at half-time.

Despite a positive half-time talk, RHC then started to falter.  Although running the same substitution routine as in the first half, the team shape suffered, as did ball possession.  RHC lost personal discipline, became less team focussed and were unable to contain A&F counter attacks in numbers.  Whilst Mozza scored two more poacher’s goals and had a third disallowed, RHC conceded three in the last fifteen minutes: a rebound off Nigel K after a good first save, a 2 v 1 and a deflected overtime penalty corner.  In many ways, the central midfield and even the wide defenders seemed to have forgotten their defensive duties, leaving Ali N, Rob K and Rob N over exposed.  Final score:  7-3.

In summary, a game of two halves; I have been waiting to be able to say this!  A fantastic team performance in the first half with near perfect execution of everything demanded by Ali N; the game plan worked!  However, despite requests for the same again, individuals seemed to forget their team roles and, in a few cases, seemed more interested in personal glory.  Yes, we achieved our aim of three points.  However, against a stronger team we would have been well and truly punished.

MoM:  Zac C (excellent commitment) and Rob K (steady play in an unusual role).

DoD:  Nigel K (teddies & cots; not acting his age!).

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