Sunday 15th April was a typical Spring
morning, sunny but with a biting wind. I picked up Bob, Andy
and Simon at the Clubhouse at 9 and we set off for what was
to be one of the finest days for the Club in its history.
I was feeling fairly nervous and quite drained after the Club
Tournament the day before as that was a special day and very
emotionaly charged. I knew that the 2s were the best 2nd team
we had ever had, but there is always the feeling that despite
us doing well in National Competitions in the past we tended
to fall at the last hurdle, always the plucky losers. Who
were we anyway, an unknown Club from somewhere nobody had
heard of? Well excuse me... at the beginning of the season
I had dragged my plastic boot down to watch the guys play
Beeston, and we were brilliant, pace, skill, determination,
intelligence, we had it all, and Beeston were truly outclassed.
I knew then that something special was going on. And it did
go on, right across the Club, all season.
The journey to Cannock was completed on autopilot having been made so many times in the past for epic battles with a Club with whom I have had a personal love hate relationship. Certainly a Club against which Bridgford can be seen to have advanced over the years, a datum point for us if you like. We were slowed slightly by an accident on the A5, but a quick detour got us there in time to meet up with the other Club faithful, umpires, parents, sons, grandparents, wives, girlfriends and babies that form the Club infrastructure that is so important. Tensions were high as was speculation, for phone messages had been pinging about concerning lost or mislaid astro trainers, and a call had been made for the chap who runs the Cannock Sports Shop (cubicle) to open up and sell us a pair of size 7s. In the event that was just another facet to the rich tapestry that was being played out.
We paid our £6 each entry fee (£3 parking) and got huddled together in anticipation as the teams were led out and presented much as Premier League Football, but without the children holding our hands. We cheered as the players were introduced, but this tailed off after the first 6 names as we got bored. Here are the Bridgford "massive", looks warm but wasn't.
The match started with Bridgford looking slightly nervous, and in fact both sides struggled to get to grips with the bouncy surface. Early on JPR had a sniff of a chance that went wide and the Lewes keeper made a couple of good saves, but we looked to be worrying the Lewes defence more than they worried us. Both sides had a couple more chances in the half but you can tell when sides are under pressure, they play down the left flank too frequently, and that is what both teams tended to do.
After half time things improved,
Ben and Dan played more decisively down the right flank, allowing
us to dominate most of the play. Lewes had no option but to
rely on the counter break, but Rob was immense at sweeper
and they were not able to get much pressure on Atish who was
not going to be beaten under any circumstances. As the pressure
mounted on Lewes a few of their players started to show cracks,
with a yellow card for "wrestling" being the result of a particularly
nasty couple of tackles from the left back, nicely pointed
out to the umpire by us and Pete Fenton who supported and
advised the officials at appropriate moments during the game!
Despite the numerical advantage when their bench was strenghtened by the "wrestler", we failed to score, but we did play very well and you could feel that everyone including the opposition and their fans knew that it was only a matter of time until the better team won. Pete Fentons' "squeeky bum" time, the last few minutes where Lewes might sneak a crafty winner, came and went, and the game was destined for extra time and the Golden Goal. And here it is.... minutes into extra time ....
Sam sniped down the left, seemingly losing the ball to the "wrestler", but Tim pounced on an error and drove into the D, releasing the ball to Will who reacted brilliantly to deflect the ball past the despairing left hand of the Lewes Keeper. That goal looked fairly golden to me. Game over, we had only gone and done it. The best 2nd Team in the country, NO ARGUMENT. Fenters went to get the champagne, the rest of us went bananas.
Nick Robinson accepts the Trophy (plate), the culmination of a brilliant season as captain. Well done Nick.
The winning team supported by Chris and Tom. Nice gold madalions.
So as the dust and adrenaline
settle all that needs to be said by me is "well done" to Nick
and the team and Chris and Tom for supporting and managing
the logistics on the day, well done and thanks to all the
players in the squad who played during the season, a number
of whom could not be there as squad size was limited on the
day, thank you to the supporters, family and friends who provided
that special "lift", thank you to Simon Cooper for the brilliant
camera work and thank you to the umpires Pete, Jez and
Andy who played an important role during the season (and on
the day Pete). You don't get to be "best in the country" by
chance, the successes throughout the club this season have
been built on firm foundations, our determination to maintain
grass roots hockey through junior development, player retention
and social cohesion have paid off, thank you all for being
part of that. Always more than a sum of the parts.