Alex Halcoussis

Aldershot and Farnham V 0 – 2 Romsey III

A frosty afternoon saw the Romsey Men’s 3rd XI travel to bottom of the league Aldershot. Romsey took a squad of 15 to the game, with top scorer Ben Ellis a notable absence. Romsey were hoping to stay top for the Christmas break with a win but knew not to expect an easy victory.

The first half stated at a pace that seemed to shock the bandanna clad away side, with Aldershot piling on the pressure. The back three of Mark McArdle, Hugh Davidson and Luke Hammond performed superbly throughout the 70 minutes and helped keeper Lukasz Suleja keep his 7th clean sheet of the season. After a difficult first 15 minutes, Romsey grew into the game and quickly counter attacked through wingers Matt Clark, J Robinson and Alex Halcoussis. Linking up with the midfield trio of Danny Nicoll, Pete Cooper and Jon Marsh, the widemen were able to provide service for the striking pairs of Zak Cooper and Nick Mason, and Matchey Lincoln and Richard Lake.

As half time approached, Romsey took the lead through a well placed strike from the top of the D by Nicoll. Seemingly taking an age to hit the ball, the attacking midfielder found the bottom right with precision. Half time was an opportunity to make sure everyone was awake, calm and to ask the Thirds to try to hold on to possession longer. There was also a blow for Romsey as midfielder Fergus Longman, who had picked up a knock to the knee, was unable to play in the second half.

Romsey scored again early on in the second half as Danny Nicoll put pressure on and dispossessed an opposing centre back before driving down the by-line. Aldershot’s keeper came out to challenge the Romsey man but missed the ball, allowing Nicoll to pass into the backboard. Having gone 2-0 down, Aldershot spent most of the second half camped in Romsey’s half. The visitors did still look to threaten on the break, but the defending which has seen the Thirds concede only 4 goals this season had more of an emphasis in the game.

The win was hard fought but well deserved for Romsey, who have shown great character in the first half of the season and will be looking to push on in January.

Romsey 3 6-0 City of Portsmouth 4

A cold December morning did not hinder Romsey’s play in their penultimate game before Christmas as they comfortably beat a spirited Portsmouth team. Romsey lined up as below, and this week were without stalwarts Nicoll and McArdle as midfielder Tim Bailey made his first appearance of the season.
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With Portsmouth opting to swap ends, the Romsey 3rd XI started the first half. Starting quickly once again, the first 10 minutes were played almost entirely in Portsmouth’s half as Romsey opened the scoring. A short corner was injected to the top of the D by midfielder Fergus Longman and drag flicked by Clark to the bottom right of the goal, where it was tapped in by winger James Robinson. Matt Pitcher scored to double Romsey’s lead as the home side dominated possession and striker Ben Ellis played a through ball to assist the winger’s tap-in. After scoring their second, Romsey came under pressure from Portsmouth but assured defending and strong play from the midfield saw the Thirds weather the storm. A third was added before half time to round off a comfortable first half as Tim Bailey intercepted an opposition pass to start a counter, pushing the ball out wide to Lincoln who hit across the goal line for Robinson to score at the far post.

More of the same was wanted for the second half, and Romsey did not allow themselves to grow complacent. Another short corner brought another goal later on in the second half as Romsey had struggled to find top gear again. Bailey scored a drag flick into the top left corner of the goal, and the breakthrough opened up play in the second half. Captain Matt Clark intercepted Portsmouth push-back after the goal and drove the ball up the field, playing a one two with striker Z. Cooper before driving along the baseline and finding Cooper again, who scored a deflection. Romsey rounded off the day with a sixth, scoring as midfielder P. Cooper controlled an ariel from the opposition, passing through to Bailey who found Lincoln at the top of the D who in turn scored, hitting low under the keeper’s legs.

Romsey’s dominant display brought them top of the league, and the Third XI will be hoping to finish this half of the season strong.

Fareham 9 (1-1) Romsey 3

In a titanic clash similar to that of the giant robots fighting the giant monsters in Pacific Rim, the Romsey Men’s 3rd XI travelled away to top of the league Fareham. Fareham had won their game in hand and sat a point above the Thirds; having dropped two points over their first six games to Romsey’s three. Push-back was taken at 16:30, and with the sun already set Romsey lined up as shown below. One notable absence was Captain Matt Clark, out with a groin injury, who still travelled to Fareham to instruct from the sideline.
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Vice-Captain Pete Cooper took the armband for the day, and helped to motivate the team before the half pushed back. The first half began frantically, with Romsey absorbing a wave of early pressure from an energetic and physical Fareham side before mounting lightning counter attacks. This set the pattern for the first half until Romsey grew more into the game, with the midfield working well with the forwards to sustain pressure in Fareham’s third. Early chances were nearly converted as strikers Ellis, Mason, Lake and Lincoln worked particularly well on the break and the opposition keeper showed his quality early on. It was, however, Fareham who opened the scoring as the first half become more stretched, countering a Romsey attack and finding a striker who managed to beat keeper Lukasz Suleja even with three defenders around him. Suleja made some important stops and clearances throughout the match, and has conceded 4 over 7 games. Romsey had scored 23 in their previous 6 games, but could not score before the end of the half.

With the hosts 1-0 up, the half time team talk was an opportunity for the 3rd XI to calm down and assess where things were going wrong. Starting the second half as quickly as the first, it was Romsey who were on top in the early stages, with Fareham playing on the break. Strong play from the wingers resulted in corner after corner, with the forwards eventually winning a short. Injected by defensive rock Mark McArdle, the drag flick was taken by Danny Nicoll. Although Romsey believed Nicoll scored from the flick, the ball was adjudged not to have crossed the line before hitting a defender’s foot, and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Nick Mason, who kept the ball low and buried in the bottom left of the goal. Once again, Romsey were on the ascendency but glorious chances for Lincoln and other Romsey forwards were well kept out by Fareham. With the feisty encounter finishing at 1-1, both sides will feel they are real contenders for the league.

Romsey 3 4-0 Salisbury 4

This Saturday afternoon was approached by Romsey with a mixture of hope and trepidation. Whilst Romsey, the away side, were confident in their ability and form, the last time they had played away at Salisbury in the league they had slumped to a scoreless draw. Romsey currently sat top of the league, although both Fareham and Bournemouth had a game in hand, with the home team occupying 5th place. Romsey brought a strong team to the game, with one change made from the 16 man squad that romped to an 8-0 victory over Gosport as striker Richard Lake made his season’s début.

In typical fashion the third XI started strong, breaking down the Salisbury defence but golden opportunities were squandered by strikers Zak Cooper, Ben Ellis and winger Alex Halcoussis. Striving for the opener, Romsey found their play narrowed and it was not until Olly Robley drove the ball wide before passing into the D to find Lake, who struck the ball on his reverse through the keeper’s legs and into the middle of the goal. The two attackers combined again shortly after as Robley dribbled down the base line to square and set up a sweaty goal that Lake could not miss. Romsey’s third of the afternoon came as James Robinson chipped in the rebound from a shot by striker Cooper into the roof of the net on the right hand side of the goal, underling a dominant first half.

Having established a secure footing for the second half, the Third XI were surprisingly nervous throughout, especially when defending within their own D. However a commendable performance from the back line, in particular left-back Hugh Davidson, and strong play from the central midfield of Danny Nicoll, Pete Cooper and Jon Marsh, helped ensure Romsey kept a clean sheet. A fourth goal for the visiting team calmed the game down as Richard Lake finished off a brilliant passing move involving captain Matt Clark and most of Romsey’s forward minded players. A 5th could have been added as Halcoussis intercepted a sloppy ball out from the back by Salisbury but the keeper dived to block the through ball to striker Lincoln.

Although they never truly hit their stride, winning is a good habit and Romsey will be pleased to carry on their form.

Romsey 3 8-0 Gosport 1898

After a disappointing result away at Bournemouth, the Romsey Men’s 3rd XI had a point to prove going into their home game against Gosport. The pre-match rain set the scene for a dramatic comeback by Romsey’s Pete Cooper, who had been sidelined for around half a season by a knee injury.

The rain let off as the first half began, and Romsey were on the front foot from the off. As opposed to the week before, their play was direct, incisive and purposeful. This resulted in a great chance early on as good play out wide by strikers Ben Ellis and Matchey Lincoln created space for winger Alex Halcoussis to make a run down the middle. The keeper was, however, lithe to the danger and his presence helped the attacker royally fluff his opportunity. However, the resulting long corner resulted in the game’s opening goal as vice-captain Pete Cooper found Matt Clark in the D who chipped the ball over a defender’s stick before volleying across the face of goal to find the backboard. Romsey displayed improvement in their play as they decided not to go to sleep after going a goal up, instead opting to double their lead through Danny Nicole. A short corner, won by Lincoln, bounced softly into the goal after being miss-struck at the top of the D by the midfielder. Although Romsey did their fair share of defending during the first half it is no exaggeration to say the home side dominated proceedings, adding to their goal tally as Ben Ellis put his trademark on the game by dancing round the keeper after being played in on the left hand post by captain Clark and scoring gently.

Romsey’s midfielders once again showed their prowess, and were back on form for this game. Instead of being dragged out wide the trio of Jon Marsh, Pete Cooper and Danny Nicole were able to dictate play and continually created opportunities for the wingers and strikers. Nicole played his part in another goal before half time, winning a short corner before his drag flick was deflected into the top right by defender Mark McArdle, who had taken the injection. McArdle has been at the heart of a defence that has so far kept four clean sheets over five games, and was once again influential in ensuring the Thirds did not slip up. The final goal before half time was from a ball played by Marsh to striker Ollie Robley, who drove up half the pitch before striking from an impossible angle and watching the ball dribble over the goal-line.

The half time team talk focused on keeping heads, and not sacrificing the fluid team play exhibited in the first half in the pursuit of individual glory. Romsey’s 6th goal came soon after half time, as Nicole’s long corner found Cooper who, in turn, found Clark. The balled was played around the top of the D by Clark and Lincoln, eventually finding its way to Nicole who scored with a strong hit into the bottom left. The final two goals of the afternoon came from sublime pieces of individual skill, as Zak Cooper first dribbled round the majority of Gosport’s defence before scoring and as McArdle ran the entire length of the pitch, converting on his reverse. Romsey’s performance was solid in the second half, if not emphatic, and the defence must be credited for keeping another clean sheet, in particular keeper Lukasz Suleja.

Bournemouth 6 3-2 Romsey 3

Another windy day in Bournemouth saw the Romsey Men’s 3rd XI slump to their frustrating first defeat of the season. Up to this point the thirds had maintained their 100 percent start to the season and were feeling confident, although they knew most of the league’s big boys were still to come before Christmas.

Romsey started the first half brightly and, after some initial defending, scored in the 8th minute of play. The goal, scored by striker Ben Ellis, seemed to create a change in the mentality of both teams. Having gone behind, Bournemouth were stronger in their attacking play – pushing forward for an equaliser. Romsey, by contrast, seemed to soften in the knowledge that they were a goal to the good, and the net result of this was a Bournemouth equaliser not long before half time. The break was an opportunity for captain Matt Clark to try and knock a few heads together, and kick-start Romsey back into action. Although the back three of Luke Hammond, Mark McArdle and Hugh Davidson had stayed relatively strong, Romsey’s central midfielders, Danny Nicole and Jon Marsh, had been dragged out of position by Bournemouth and had been unable to exert their usual influence over the game. Despite this, Romsey had still looked lively going forward and the striking trio of Matchy Lincoln, Zak Cooper and Ben Ellis injected energy into the away side.

After the interval Romsey started strong, with Ellis netting his second of the afternoon – with Lincoln claiming the assist. Romsey looked pretty comfortable after taking the lead again until a Bournemouth corner, which would have been ruled out had the ball not touched a Romsey stick on its way into the D, was swept first time into the goal. The 1 in 100 strike came as a surprise for both teams, and seemed to shock the thirds who conceded again shortly after. At 3-2 down, Romsey piled onto Bournemouth at the close of the game and surely would have levelled had it not been for the heroics of Bournemouth’s young keeper.

This game was always going to be a challenge for Romsey, and a number of factors gave Bournemouth the advantage. A bouncy pitch or a windy day is not, however, an excuse for some of the bad play exhibited and Romsey will be hoping to bounce back into form for their next game.

Basingstoke Vikings 0 – 5 Romsey 3

Romsey travelled to Basingstoke on Saturday looking to build on their 1-0 victory against the Isle of Wight. Last season Romsey had somewhat struggled away from home and the Third XI expected a tough test. The first half saw a starting line up that was much the same as the one that had faced the Isle of Wight, with Jon Marsh making his season debut coming into the midfield. On a grey day Romsey started the first half brightly, finding the backboard early on through winger Alex Halcoussis. The goal was, however, ruled illegal and disallowed as it had bounced off a Romsey back-stick on its way into the Basingstoke D. A legal goal was soon to come for Romsey, with Zak Cooper winning a short corner. Mark McArdle delivered what he himself described as an ‘unbelievable injection’ to Captain Mathew Clark, who struck a pile-driver across the face of goal and into the bottom corner. Clark was proving too much for the Basingstoke defence as he quickly hit the backboard again, unfortunately this too was ruled out due to a back-stick. Jon Marsh and Danny Nicoll formed the backbone of the Romsey team, dictating play in the first half, and it was a moment of magic from the latter that brought Romsey their second goal of the afternoon. A heroic run up-field from Nicoll culminated in the Thirds player falling over, getting back up, driving into the D and smashing the ball home. It was the newest edition to the squad, Ollie Robley, who provided the visitors with their third and final goal before half time, linking up well with winger Chris Harwood, before striking to the back post to score.

At 3-0 up, the half time team talk was a plea for more of the same – and to close the gap between attack and defence. Romsey at times had left themselves vulnerable to the counter-attack, although the back three of McArdle, Luke Hammond and Hugh Davidson had made sure that keeper Lukasz Suleja was never truly troubled in the first half. Striker Ben Ellis had troubled the Basingstoke all afternoon, and his performance in the second half brought him two goals and the man of the match award. The first came from the referee playing advantage after a Basingstoke player touched the ball with his foot, and Ellis moved through on goal to round the keeper and chip in. The second was another composed finish, as the striker calmly slotted the ball to the keeper’s right and into the corner of the goal. The end of the second half proved to be end to end stuff, with players such as Fergus Longman pushing forward for Romsey and Basingstoke quickly counter-attacking. Having been let off the hook once or twice, the 3rd XI kept their clean sheet and maintained their winning start to the season. A strong team performance was undermined only by a slightly lackadaisical approach to the game once 3 or 4 goals up, and Romsey have cause to be confident approaching their next outing.

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.

Pre-Season Results

Romsey 3 0 – 6 Eastleigh

Gillingham 2 – 2 Romsey 3

Romsey 3 9 – 0 Poole Dolphins

Romsey 3 2 – 0 Portsmouth Shark

2014’s pre-season was begun by a new look Romsey 3rd XI squad. Over the course of last season the Thirds lost some valuable players to the dizzying heights of the 2nd XI, but two solid team performances have given Captain Matthew Clark reason to be optimistic going into the league this week. Whilst the pre-season was begun with a crushing home defeat to Eastleigh, the squad found rhythm quickly and, having integrated new senior players into the team, ended on a high after a hard fought but well deserved victory over Portsmouth Sharks.

In the first match, of the pre-season, the 3rd XI slipped to a 6-0 defeat to Eastleigh. Eastleigh had arrived a man down, and were graciously lent a defender for the game. The game was an opportunity for several new players to experience men’s hockey for the first time and, with rolling substitutes, Romsey’s play seemed disjointed. 3-0 down after half time, Romsey kept most of the second half scoreless and were able to create opportunities of their own but crumbled after conceding late on. Although the score line was not pretty, no one was too downhearted and not conceding 7 was viewed as an acceptable start to the season.

Seven days later the 3rd XI embarked on an almighty trek to Gillingham. Most of the team managed to arrive near to the preordained push back time; however Romsey ended up borrowing two Gillingham players for the first 5-10 minutes of the game. After a spot of defending it was a bright start from the 3rd XI, who opened the scoring. Gillingham drew level as the first half drew to a close. Romsey were playing far better than they had been against Eastleigh and were happy after the first half. It was a game of two halves, and Romsey scored again early on in the second. The second half was end to end stuff, and Romsey had a few good opportunities to double their lead. It was, however, Gillingham who managed to convert one of their chances and tie the game at 2-2. The draw was well earned by Gillingham, but Romsey may have felt they let the win go too easily.

The second home game of this year’s pre-season was against Poole Dolphins, a team one league below the Thirds. Romsey eased to a 9-0 victory and the game was an opportunity for the team to continue familiarising themselves and to practice some passing moves. After initial frustration in terms of scoring, the Thirds walked off 3-0 up at half time and proceeded to dominate in the second half.

The final game of the pre-season was another feisty encounter with the ever rough and ready Portsmouth Sharks. The first half was very competitive, with both sides creating opportunities but neither taking their chances. The Sharks goalkeeper made some fine saves, and the half finished 0-0. This set the tone for the second half as well, and as the Romsey defence came under pressure their own keeper kept the thirds in the game. The game became more intense and tempers rose as time was running out in the second half, before Romsey’s captain scored a tap in roughly ten minutes from the end. Hard work and resolute defending ensured the 3rd XI saw out the half, and a final whistle short-corner saw the hosts double their lead. The hard fought victory saw the team keep their heads and work for each other until the end, a great conclusion to a pre-season which had been about building a team once more.

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