Wapping left with point to prove after Traill heroics - by Adam Haines. Image Iain McCauslan
M2’s 6-2 win over third-placed Shefford & Sandy leaves them with just a point needed for promotion to East Prem B — the highest level in their history
Wapping’s 3-2 defeat at Shefford & Sandy in November was perhaps the low point of the side’s season, their promotion target under threat. Victory in the reverse fixture would leave them tantalising close to the high of promotion.
This was a strange game, with two evenly matched sides cancelling one another out for long periods and the frequent sound of the umpires’ whistles restricting flow. The 6-2 scoreline may give a false impression of the match’s excitement, though the significance of the result for Wapping cannot be overstated.
Wapping could not have asked for a better start. Forward Jonny Madill’s trickery won a short-corner in the opening couple of minutes: Dom Oliver’s drag-flick was saved on the line by the defender, only for injector Adam Haines to pounce on the rebound and give Wapping the lead.
Shefford & Sandy, though, gave as good as they got. A strong run from James Fanger was curtailed by their left back: a spell in the sin-bin the result.
The visitors mounted a number of attacks. Wapping were reliant on determined defending, the central partnership of Charley Wright and Dudley Spiers holding firm. Impressive saves from keeper James Bowler and wasteful finishing from Shefford served to keep their lead intact.
Wapping, though, managed to extend their lead from another short corner. Dom Oliver’s pass found Alain Traill, who netted to make it 2-0.
There were a few tense moments, belying the nerves of the two teams in this table-topping encounter. One or two Shefford players were particularly excitable, while forwards Madill and Jason Black received a ticking-off from the officials following reactions to decisions.
At half time, coach Steve Turner told the team he was happy with the score, but not convinced by the performance.
For long periods of the second half, Wapping simply sat on their 2-0 lead, time and again stepping in front of their opposite men to win possession; Dylan Holman and Sam Philpott in particular to the fore.
The game sprang to life with 20 minutes left. Momentarily, the men in maroon lost their discipline and a Shefford forward was left with a one-on-one, which he duly dispatched to make it 2-1.
It was critical Wapping kept their heads, learning their lesson from last week when an equaliser from opponents Upminster saw Wapping enter panic stations.
And by and large they achieved this. Fittingly, it was one of the older and wiser who gave Wapping a cushion: Olly Davies slamming the ball into the backboard from another penalty corner.
At this stage, Traill was giving Shefford a torrid time. The Bedfordshire outfit had no answer to his pace, physicality and directness, drawing fouls, resulting in penalty corner after penalty corner (as well as cards), and vitally keeping the ball at the right end of the pitch from Wapping’s perspective.
Amid an increasingly fractious game, there was one moment of lovely hockey. Haines and Oliver combined to dispossess a Shefford defender, transferring the ball back to defence.
Here, it worked its way up-field, via Spiers, Philpott and Bobby Watson, before falling to Madill in the D. One-on-one with the keeper, he had the awareness to pick a pass to Matt Hyden, whose finish from a narrow angle should not be downplayed. A great team goal. 4-1 Wapping, and the clock running out.
Swiftly, though, Wapping’s opponents reduced the arrears when a brilliant backhand strike from their talented but temperamental forward made it 4-2.
Moments of nervousness crept in, with Wapping guilty of dubious decision-making. However, Dom Oliver then ran on to a loose ball and was deemed to have been fouled by the keeper, with a penalty stroke the award.
The same man stepped up and converted. Following an important flick against City of Peterborough a few weeks ago, this served to underline his status as the man for p-flicks in under-pressure situations.
There was still time for one more. A great move in the D against a tiring opposition defence saw Jack Beard feed Jason Black, who pirouetted and fizzed in one to Bobby Watson, who converted into an empty net.
So it finished 6-2. Wapping’s celebrations were restrained, knowing both that this was an important result but nothing had yet been achieved.
Not a classic this one, but that won’t matter one bit to the men in maroon. Wapping need a vital point on Sunday against Bishop Stortford, which will see them promoted.
The garden was barren when these teams locked horns in November. It’s altogether rosier now.
Man of the match was a foregone conclusion, going to all-action Alain Traill. He unfussily gets on with his business, gets knocked down and gets up again, and is the ultimate team-player.