Wapping M9 v Basildon M1 (a)
Shaking off the Summer Cobwebs - by Jon 'J Lo' Lowe
The first game of the season saw the Men’s 9s playing a familiar foe, as we made the journey to Basildon’s ground keen to start the season strong. Basildon were promoted with us last season, being fortunate enough to win the league on goal difference, after we graciously decided finishing first was just showboating. The 45 minute drive outside of the safety of central London jogged memories of the physicality of our opposition, preparing the squad for the game ahead.
When we arrived with our flat 11 we were welcomed by the news that they too were a weakened side. But I think I speak for most of the lads when I say after the loss of breath during the warmup, the start of the season had snuck up on us. After the whistle, we were immediately reminded of the physical nature of Basildon, with strong tackles being made by both sides. But despite this the game remained a friendly and good natured affair.
Wapping played confidently with the ball in the first half, moving well but trying to force the play at crucial moments. Basildon’s approach was more direct, preferring the one man up top with long balls or aerials to test the defence.
The first goal of the game came after a, let’s say, well planned short corner in which we missed the stick stop but managed to salvage a side-line ball on the right hand side of their 25. Andy ‘Juggers’ Gill played a clever ball to former captain Harry Inch on the inside, swiftly played to Liam Flynn who made a penetrating run round the outside of the D, pulling the ball back to Ollie Kean to slot it home at the front post.
The rest of the first half was uninteresting, but Wapping were moving the ball well and utilising the wings and the space.
The second half began cagey, with Wapping wanting to defend the lead they had earnt and wary of the crash ball tactics of Basildon. I can neither confirm nor deny that the game slowed down because of a lack of match fitness as the half progressed. Wapping won a few short corners that weren’t successful, but according to the words of the captain, the defence held up well. Goalkeeper Rik Lodhia made a fantastic save from a stinging shot that blazed from the right of the D across goal. At this moment in the game, the brilliant stop was the only reason that Wapping were able to keep their noses ahead.
The next major moment of the game was the most annoying from a Wapping point of view. A skilful run from one of the Basildon midfielders saw him take on two players before crashing a shot at goal. This is the moment that the hockey equivalent of the bouncing bomb was let off five yards in front of the Wapping goal. For what felt for like 30 seconds (it was probably less than 5) the ball bounced up around off of a plethora of sticks before a Basildon player got fed up of the nonsense, and decided to swing as if he was trying to hit the ball for six at Lords, burying the ball into the roof of the net and not giving anyone a chance of stopping it.
The end of the game saw Wapping apply a lot of pressure to Basildon’s D, with the front five of newbie Kris Petkov, Andy Gill, Liam Flynn, Harry Inch and Ollie Kean playing well but just not quite finding the backboard. Man of the Match was awarded to Ollie Keen for his goal.
Next week we are at home to Redbridge and Ilford, our first test against a team that were part of the division last season, before having a sensible and casual drink at the first official social of the season.