Southampton HC - National Vase Champions
SHC Men's 1XI unbeaten at Lee Valley.
On a grey morning in Southampton 52 players and supporters gathered at the Sport Centre ready for a 8.30am departure, a National Vase Final at the Olympic Park awaited.
More supporters met us on our arrival who made their way by train or car. The players enjoyed a stroll around the ground and soaking in some of the atmosphere.
The preparation and push back were delayed due to the final before ours going to penalty shuttles. After rousing pre-game team talks from coach and captain, our preparation was complete and the starting XI made their entrance to the pitch with each of the player's names read out over loud speaker and being met with a cheer from the crowd after every name. Southampton started the game, the Vase Final was under way.
The early exchanges went towards Southampton and the lads, playing in white so as not to clash with the pitch, created chances down the flanks. O'Brien got a chance to run the baseline and put the ball onto a defenders foot. The first penalty corner of the game, O'Brien attempted a drag flick but the ball was behind him and turned onto his reverse and buried the ball home 1-0 Southampton, what a terrific start 5 minutes in. His 'Alan Shearer' celebration earned him at least one dick of the day vote.
The game was end to end for the middle part of the half. Brigg created some half chances and Toby Rigby in goal made some outstanding saves. A Brigg counter caught Southampton napping and Jack Holloway was on the line and stopped an attack but sadly the ball sadly bounced off his stick into his nose, the week after he had 8 stitches in his forehead playing for the Mixed Squad. Jack got back on his feet and helped the defensive penalty corner team keep the corner out, this time with his stick rather than his head!
As the half came to an end, Southampton created the better chances and unfortunately missed a great chance to go 2-0 up. O'Brien created a goal mouth scramble where George Watling couldn't get the ball in the goal. This didn't unsettled Southampton, we were becoming to persistent for Brigg's liking. In the final couple of minutes of the half, Harris found himself the final man on a 1-on-1 with a Brigg attacker. A crucial tackle was made, without a car or foul, stopping the Brigg forward in his tracks. A tackle some would say a tackle Mike Brown would have been proud off! Southampton made it to half time one goal in front and looking the more dangerous of the two sides.
The second half came and the men in white knew their plan. Keep the ball and be patience the chances will come. Brigg started the quicker and created some chances of their own but again the solid wall of Webber, Capper, Harris, Griffiths, Watson and Toby kept the men in green at bay absorbing pressure like a giant sponge. Brigg created a penalty corner and a slick routine created their goal. 1-1, a goal that the men in green probably deserved.
The second half rolled on. Southampton marched on and searched for that goal they wanted. Oscar Rigby was causing problems for the Brigg back four all game with his direct running. He made another drive down the Southampton left and got a penalty corner. A slick routine the men in white had worked on for weeks had paid off, Jack Holloway found George Watling's stick and George deflected the ball into the top left hand corner. It was a perfect short corner, straight from the training ground. George even found time to do his trademark 'dab'. 2-1 Southampton. Brigg didn't really break Southampton down and went pushing for their second.
Southampton soaked up the pressure and hit Brigg on the counter. Charlie Griffiths started the counter from inside the 25 on the left. Charlie found James Girling, Girling then played a line ball to O'Brien who switched the play to Simon Watson. Meanwhile Charlie had seen a chance to seal the game with less and three minutes left. Charlie made a busting run into the 'D'. Simon Watson fired a low ball into the 'D'. Charlie has a reputation for scoring wonder goals and this one did not fail to impress. The ball was slightly behind Charlie but nonetheless his deft touch behind his back wrong footed the keeper. 3-1 Southampton. What a slick counter that Southampton knew they would get when Brigg chased the game.
The countdown begin from the buoyant and loud Southampton fans.
WINNERS! Southampton came out on top 3-1. Thanks to goals from Rob O'Brien, George Watling and Charlie Griffiths.
The squad would like to thank all the supports for coming up and giving us the vocal backing and support we needed. It really was an epic journey from winning the first round on strokes to playing at the Olympic Park, to the early hours on Sunday morning in Revs. A day none of the players will forget in a hurry. Thanks to all involved.
Man of the Match - Toby Rigby, outstanding saves kept us ahead and in the game.