LX CLUB at Exeter University
on Sunday 5th November 2006
LX 1 Isca Senators 4 Report re LX v West Country Select
For their encounter with Isca, the holders of the England Veteran Over 50s Cup, the LX A Team drew on 12 of the squad which represented England Grand Masters at Leverkeusen,. A frosty morning heralded a day of brilliant sunshine and excellent playing conditions, the only disappointment for those with the older limbs and joints and with two matches in prospect was that the superb and 'body-sympathetic' adjacent water-based pitch was once again unavailable.
LX had the highest regard for the Isca team. Over 20 years ago these Isca players had the pride of justly claiming to be the leading team in England, and nine of that side were still playing in their over 50s side! From the whistle Isca showed close teamwork allied to individual skill, and their younger years gave them at times an advantage of pace and sharpness over the the LX team. LX for their part showed no lack of skill or teamwork either, and had the slight advantage of fielding a top-level player in every position. In the early stages of the first half, Isca were quick to dominate as LX found their feet and tried to establish their rhythm. Isca pressed down their right, occasionally with adroit use of the aerial ball, but the main danger came from their midfielders breaking through and attacking the top of the D with pace and close ball control. Under pressure, LX conceded two goals in the first 15 minutes, one from close in and the second indirectly from a short corner. But LX kept their composure and began to play some attractive hockey. The ball advanced up both wings, and with centre forward Mike Surridge at times providing an extra man on the right, the Isca defence found its left corner defence under particular pressure. LX obtained several short corners and from one of these Rod Cochrane touched in a penalty strike from LX skipper Ken Wilcock. The balance of play was then maintained and at half time the score was 2-1 in favour of Isca.
At half time both teams would have considered they could win the match. LX were well aware that against the younger team they needed to maintain greater possession, and stop giving away the ball too cheaply. The first period of the second half remained tight, though as legs tired more spaces were opening up and clearer chances being created. As the half developed two potentially pivotal incidents took place. An LX foot denied an Isca goal, and then Isca failed to convert the ensuing stroke, the ball rebounding off the post. Shortly after a piercing LX long hit found an LX forward on the byline, the ball was swept across the face of the Isca goal but somehow two LX sticks failed to make the vital contact. It might therefore have been 3-1, and it might have been 2-2! As that opportunity had slipped by, LX pushed harder for the equaliser, but in turn their defence came under increased pressure and was regularly exposed, particularly when fast Isca counter attacks had left the LX midfield stranded upfield. The balance of play uncontestably moved in favour of Isca who in the latter stages added two more goals, one from a neat interchange following a short, and one from a penetrating counter attack. LX play now looked tired with too many poor clearances and the inability to maintain possession. Isca justifiably emerged victors from a hard and skilful game.
Team: Alan Dures, Richard Clarke, Adrian Robertson, Peter Crayford, Terry Howlett, Brian Perryman, Ken Wilcock (capt), Norman Ballard, Peter Sharpe, Rod Cochrane, Mike Surridge, Peter Ross.
In contrast to the last year’s gathering at Exeter University, when we all got rather wet, this time the weather could not have been better, bright sunshine and lovely warm air. Billed as the second feature, we had the opportunity beforehand to watch ISCA Senators, their over 50’s side, give LX ‘A’ a thorough work-out, and also to size up our own opponents. In this regard, it soon became obvious that Winston Bower had assembled a pretty formidable outfit, including five of the successful West Over 55 squad. Moreover, he had substitutes - we didn’t. As one of our side, who shall be nameless, was heard to remark before the start, “We’re in trouble here!”
Fortunately this was not entirely true. Although West enjoyed the lion’s share of possession right from the off, thanks to rugged LX defence, with David Read and John Longden prominent, they were seldom able to penetrate our circle. On the few occasions when this did happen, timely interventions by goalkeeper Paddy Maher, plus, it has to be said, some wayward finishing by their forwards kept our sheet clean.
In such circumstances, going forward with the ball involved passing our way out of deep defensive positions. That we were able to do this on a number of occasions was largely thanks to the energies, skill and ingenuity of Sudesh Nayar, Brian Tubb, Chris Jones and Alan Jackson, who combined well to create left to right crossfield movements and penetration down the right wing. Sadly, this was typically as far as it went. Inspiration in the final third was generally lacking, partly because we didn’t get enough bodies forward to create an attacking platform, but also due to a strange aversion to passing left from the middle of the pitch.
Nevertheless, 0-0 at half time prompted us to attempt a more attacking posture in the second half, with both wings encouraged to play higher. As it transpired, this intention was frustrated most of the time by the appearance of substitutes for the West. Despite more heroic defending, something was bound to give, and eventually, with perhaps a quarter of the game remaining, the ball found its way to the top of the circle, where Alan Muller had time and space to produce a typically composed finish with a lofted flick inside the left hand post.
Maybe because they were relieved to be ahead and eased off a bit, or maybe because we no longer had anything to lose, LX now enjoyed a decent period in possession and mounted several concerted attacks. With better luck one of these could have produced an equaliser, as the ball ran loose in front of a momentarily open goal, but sadly the final touch was missing.
So we had to console ourselves with the knowledge that everybody had done their damnedest, and that the 0-1 final score was no disgrace considering the strength of our opponents. As was later pointed out by Tim Underhill in his welcoming speech after dinner in the ISCA clubhouse, there are a lot of good players in the West knocking on the door of over 60’s hockey.
Team: Paddy Maher, Colin Pinks, David Read, Brian Nicholls, Brian Tubb, John Longden, Alan Jackson, Chris Jones, Gordon Small, Sudesh Nayar, Adrian Money.
LX 1 West of England Invitation XI 0
This final match was arranged to give LX ‘A’ an extra game. The West included a number of players from the Isca side as well as several LX divisional West players. Though limbs had stiffened, the shortened match proved highly enjoyable, was played in a good spirit, and both sides gave a good account of themselves. By then end of the game LX had in fairness the slight advantage in the play, and this was reflected in the narrow margin of the only goal in their favour. A very pleasant game to end the afternoon.
Many thanks to the umpires - Yvonne Dawson taking all three games and remaining as sharp at the end as at the beginning – and to Winston Bower and his many helpers, not least for the excellent curry, pudding and liquid refreshments back at the Isca clubhouse.