Champagne Flows Again For Champions Wapping M2s - by Adam Haines
With only a point required a trip to Harleston Magpies 2s provided a test of character for the league leaders.
Like Leicester City in football’s Premier League last season, Wapping have reacted to having the league in their sights by simply winning and winning and winning.
Victory two weeks ago secured promotion; defeating Blueharts last week meant they went into Saturday’s game against Harleston Magpies with a first-place finish all but sewn up. Only a defeat allied with a 20-goal swing in goal difference in favour of rivals Bourne Deeping would deprive them.
This could have lead to complacency. However, one of the traits of the team this season has been its professionalism and things were no different today.
The match began with a lengthy spell of Wapping possession, with their opponents sitting in a half-court press. As Charley Wright, Oli Watts, Dylan Holman and Dan Chamberlain caressed the ball around the back a Magpies forward was heard to say, “This could be a looooooong day”.
Wapping’s possession stats would’ve made Pep Guardiola blush. The midfield and forwards linked up well with forwards, Ed Fry standing out, choosing the right moments to attack and to recycle Jason Black, in particular, showing all the attributes that mark him out as a team player.
Wapping opened the scoring at around the ten minute mark and it was something of a landmark moment. Dylan Holman, a thorn in the side down the right flank, cracked a cross-cum-shot at goal after typically selfless work from Black. The attempt found its way in for Holman’s first goal in Wapping maroon, to his obvious delight.
One for sorrow for the Magpies.
Coach Steven Turner enjoyed a rare run-out and was making his presence felt. At one point, he was flung over a defender’s shoulder in a move that belonged more to the wrestling ring, but he simply dusted himself down and carried on. At another, he cleverly coaxed a defender into committing a foul which earnt his team a penalty corner.
The visitors extended their lead with a penalty corner routine which saw Michael Bolle fire at the keeper, who could only parry it to Scottish forward Alan Traill to blast in.
Two for joy.
A couple became a few when provider turned finisher; Bolle scoring with a trademark blistering shot from another penalty corner. No more appropriate way to mark his final appearance for the club after eight years of incredible service.
Taking their foot off the gas, perhaps basking in the day’s warm, sunny conditions a bit too freely, the men in maroon conceded a penalty corner themselves on the stroke of half time.
The rare opportunity was converted by the Magpies to throw a different complexion on the game. Going into the break, the electronic scoreboard read 3-1.
Turner’s half-time team-talk was slightly disrupted by the matter of a missing stick. However, he was eventually able to get his key message across — raise your game a gear.
Not that it was necessarily acted upon. Heartened by their goal, Magpies emerged a different side after the break, pressing far more effectively and playing with much greater commitment.
Wapping were contained and could not play the patient passing game they enjoyed in the first half.
Their situation was not aided when a misplaced ball by Watts at a sixteen yard hit found its way to the opponent’s centre half, accurately feeding a forward who shot past keeper James Bowler and into the goal. 3-2.
If anything, Wapping became more flustered. There was a lack of cohesion, with the forwards struggling to keep hold of the ball, perhaps the worst culprit Matthew Hyden, who really did have a day to forget.
Credit, though, had to go to Harleston, who were making life very difficult for the boys from east London.
To make life more difficult, Chamberlain and Fry were both green carded for stick tackles in a matter of seconds. Wapping down to nine men.
At some point, Wapping decided that enough was enough and pulled themselves by the scruff of their necks, initiated, really, by captain Wright. Once more, they began to play their triangles effectively, often involving Wright, Watts, Haines and Traill.
The superlatives are running short for Traill. Suffice to say, since Christmas, the men in maroon have dropped just two points and his reintroduction following an injury lay-off is a major factor in this statistic. He covered every blade of artificial grass, effective at both ends of the pitch, filling in at left back when his team needed him.
Through his powerful, direct running he won another of the myriad penalty corners he has earned in recent weeks.
The well-worked corner was deflected home by Northern Irishman Jonny Madill, another emblematic of the turnaround of the team’s success in 2017. His goals and all-round teamwork have been as important as Traill’s work ethic. Rumours, too, female attendance has increased at matches he has played.
This gave Wapping the breathing space they craved, making the score 4-2 and seemingly sapping the energy from their opponents.
There was one final opportunity for Jason Black to cap things off but he wasn’t able to convert his opportunity, finishing goalless for the 16-17 league campaign.
As the minutes ran out, Wapping took their foot off the gas, simply to take in the occasion. It was the least they deserved.
On the verge of winning the game, securing the league, rewarded for the commitment and hard work they had put in week in week out for the last six months come rain or shine, lazing on this sunny afternoon.