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West Men 55s Win 2017 Regional Tournament at UWE, Bristol

2017 Men's O55 Regional tournament campaign - Report by Agent JB.

After a sub-optimal performance in the 2016 Regional tournament, the astute leadership team of Ashley James, Mike Wingent and Rod Naughalty assembled a squad that had the potential to surpass the performance of the team from the previous year.  Warm up games against some challenging opposition helped in dismissing some interesting and experimental formations that didn't take advantage of the athleticism of the available squad.

UWEs “onsite” facilities greatly assisted in the inclusive nature of the tournament, whilst not preventing the teams from maintaining a little competitive humour from the stands to assist the umpires with some of the less obvious decisions and outcomes.

A humorous interlude from Rob (The Carrot) Brown helped the West side to enter into the first game against a slightly depleted South team with a cohesive and focused team approach.  The flowing and interactive play, guarding the golden nugget, resulted in the defensive midfielder Rod Naughalty finding himself with a near impossible shot which he slotted past the keepers left foot just inside the post.   The distributive and possessive style of play was unaffected by the many substitutions from the considerable talent on the sideline as the pressure built on the South.  Several penalty corners passed without effective result.  Into the second half Andy Batchelor picked up an early through ball from Rod Naughalty in the D, and after passing one player was confronted by the keeper on the floor and with a creative flick of the wrist landed the ball in the back of the net. 2 – 0 WIN!

With the first and potentially greatest challenge out of the way, the team charged up on one of most addictive substances (sugar to avoid any doubt) and assorted fluids to enable the momentum to be maintained.

The fresh and un-tested Midlands side were the next challenge but the West continued with the successful structure and style of play to great effect.  Well into the first half, after a number of bouncing interactions in the D the ball passed in front of the ever alert team manager (Mike Wingent) who plucked it out of the air and into the back of the net; the momentum was building.  With spirits high it became apparent that the competition for the most ludicrous shot of the tournament was well underway - John Stuart, intending to set the attackers free for glory, miraculously launched an aerial that, having taken out two seagulls, put the defence in serious danger.  Luckily the ever present Brian Edwards in  attempting to protect his good looks brought it under control and stability was restored.  The dominant style of play continued into the second half and after a cross D “shot” the ball came out to Rod Naughalty who volleyed it hard and just inside the left post, easily beating the keeper; the bench roared.  The pressure was now starting to tell on the Midlands side whose supportive behaviour was starting to deteriorate.  In a particularly expressive moment the excellent umpires interjected to provide one of the key Midlands players a constructive and self reflective period by the quiet of the official's desk.  This was clearly very effective as subsequently, following a creative attack, he ‘wiffled’ the ball towards the goal, (from what appeared to be outside the D), passing both of the outstanding defenders, Coles & Bower, who unwittingly obscured the view of the keeper preventing him from sweeping the ball away with his new ‘polo’ pads.  In the absence of the TMO, the goal was awarded. 2 – 1 WIN!

With much learnt and much to discuss at the end of a successful day the teams retired to the 'Onezone bar’ for food and refreshment - some team members (Shane Lovett) had been searching the ozone layer for the bar.  In an evening of merriment, two key members (Bowers and Brown) followed the captain’s instructions explicitly, socialising and preaching the virtues of west country liquor and how they could overcome the best in the West.  Meanwhile the rest of the team, using some bizarre west country game attempted, depressingly and unsuccessfully to work out who was going to look after the kitty.  Andy Batchelor meanwhile, in a conscientious objection to playing on Sunday, took the day off to reflect on his goal scoring performance, whilst selflessly permitting other attackers more pitch time; also hoping that his back would recover in time for other hockey duties.

On the second day of the tournament and in spite of the bright sunshine, the view on the pitch appeared a little hazier than normal and this atmosphere seemed to have affected the interlinking style of play exhibited the previous day.  This was compounded by the fact that the North didn't appear to have reflected appropriately on the previous evening’s free insight into the west strategy, leaving the score at half time at 0-0. With a significant input from the management team, addictive substances and fluid at half time the West re-emerged in their previous form.  As the pressure on the North increased a number of penalty corners presented the opportunity for Rod Naughalty to pick up his 3rd goal by a sweep in from a well executed penalty corner routine.  This was followed by the conversion of another penalty corner by Nigel Bower after some close inter passing in the D.  The final score in this game, came as another corner resulted in the ball being worked to the right. An attempted clearance by the North’s defence was picked up on the reverse and a cross/shot from Capt Naults (he can't score again?!) was re-directed successfully from going wide into the onion bag (Wingent, now totalling 1m for 2 goals) for a comprehensive 3-0 WIN vs North.

With one game to go and with the opposition in second place, there was all to play for against the East squad.  In a competitive and end to end game the West managed to maintain the control but failed to score.  The tension made this a demanding game but the umpires maintained their firm control and on several occasions provided Brian Edwards with welcome rest periods in order to recharge and refocus.  In similar circumstances, Shane’s reward for putting body and soul on the line for the West was rewarded with quiet rest too, reflecting on the weekend performance with the chair of West Masters Hockey at the official’s table.  With jubilant interchange with the team from the East at the final whistle (Draw 0 – 0) the grins started to appear and would remain for some days to come as the players, like some old heroes, reflected on their medals, recounting the friendships, company and great weekend that they had enjoyed together.

The closing speech by Martin Jenkins of West Masters Hockey giving thanks to the officials, UWE, Rod Naughalty for the organisation and the invaluable support by the team of UWE Physio was applauded warmly, particularly by the grinning team from the West.

The results speak for themselves;  

  • Undefeated winners with highest points,
  • greatest goals for,
  • least goals against,
  •  top goal scorer,
  • top goal scoring defending,
  • most impressive reverse aerial,
  • most impressive self-defensive pluck out of the air (from the previous),
  •  best coach, captain & manager,
  • worst comedian
  • and biggest Grinners.  

 On this occasion, WEST is BEST.