This Saturday saw Oundles 2nd away trip to Nottingham in as many weeks, to face Nottingham 1s. A team that had had the misfortune to suffer relegation last season, finishing bottom of the league above. As this was the first league meeting between these sides, Oundle were unsure of what to expect, with Nottingham getting a mixed bag of results so far this season. Notably what seemed like a close 5-3 loss away to Mansfield as well a 8-1 thumping away to Northampton Saints 2s. With both Saints and Mansfield being quite similar teams in quality.
Oundle, keen to put last week’s game behind them, were in good spirits on the drive over to Nottingham. However they were still missing some big names with Dan ‘Martin’ Phillips out with injury and John Brown still on his scouting mission. Oundle were however able to count on the services of Gareth Watt making his first appearance of the season. Pickstone, deciding that as the cricket was going well, and the rugby later on was likely to go the same way, was loud and proud with his choice of attire, a South African rugby shirt! A choice which did not go down well with the rest of the team.
The game began with Oundle adopting the same half court press which had frustrated Nottingham Trent 2s so well last week. This again had the desired effect as Nottingham were unable to break through Oundle, losing possession mainly in the midfield area with Oundles midfield working hard, forcing turnovers and mistakes from the beleaguered Nottingham players. Solid and stable Pete Allett, who, probably excited at his top bins goal in the pre game warm up shooting drill, gleefully went around his business taking the ball from the Nottingham players at will.
When Nottingham realised that they were not going to be able to outplay Oundle, they resorted to a couple of aerials and crashball along the ground to the sole forward, who interestingly chose not to wear shin pads. He was however not given a sniff by the stalwart centre back partnership of Jimmy Moore and Vice Captain Adrian Millan. The Nottingham forward was perhaps a little over zealous at times in his pursuit of the ball, when losing a foot race to Oundle Ben Edis resulted in the Nottingham captain taking a swing and crashing into Edis stick. A comment of ‘You gonna buy me a new stick after that’ did not go down well with the Nottingham captain.
When Oundle were in possession in the first half, they were playing some nice free flowing hockey with the midfield linking up well. Former Captain Tristan Ashby (Yes i’m also surprised he’s again available to play) made his 2nd appearance on the left hand side and the combination with utility man Gareth Watt proved very effective for Oundle with Nottingham unable to cope with the duo. In fact it was Ashby who nearly opened the scoring when he found himself free in the D with a bit of time, and from a tight angle fired a shot which looked destined for the top corner of the net, with the Nottingham keeper managing to get a glove to keep the shot out.
Despite all of the pressure from Oundle the final ball was just not there. It was also difficult for Oundle to play their brand of hockey, with numerous stick tackles from Nottingham flying in, some of these were seen by the umpires but some however were not. When Dalley inquired with the umpire about this it appeared that Dalley received a very stern talking to. It was however Nottingham who nearly took the lead late on in the first half. When P.Wilson (Pete) was upended in the middle of the pitch, the Nottingham player seemingly very excited for the rugby later on, no foul was given and a defence splitting pass found the onrushing Nottingham winger free in the D, with time to shoot. The Nottingham player was quickly closed down by an alert Youngy in goal to keep the score at 0-0.
The half time team talks were said, and for Oundle it was a case of continuing as they were, being on top for most of the first half. The game however was turned on its head, straight from the whistle to begin the 2nd half Oundle were pinned back, enduring a spell of pressure from Nottingham. At first the pressure from Nottingham amounted to nothing, after Oundle had recovered their wits the game became quite even, again with neither side able to make a breakthrough. A hopeful cross however from Nottingham missed everyone and was left by Youngy in the Oundle net, was claimed by one Nottingham player to be a goal, this caused a bit of tension in the game with words exchanged between Jimmy and the Nottingham Captain. The umpire seemed to be unwilling to do anything about the threats made from the Nottingham captain.
Nottingham’s play started to pay dividends midway through the 2nd half when Nottingham won numerous short corners. The first of these was a straight strike to Youngys right which was saved. The second short corner however should have sent alarm bells ringing for Oundle when Nottingham tried one of their set piece routines. This was hit on goal high above backboard height. This was originally given as a goal much to the dismay of the Oundle players and it was only after a discussion between umpires that this was correctly chalked off. The 3rd short corner was the same routine with the hit on goal lower this time which was saved by Youngy. The 4th short corner however came with the breakthrough, with Jimmy Moore receiving a yellow card for allegedly pulling back the Nottingham captain. The goal from the resulting short corner managed to take a deflection from the left hand postman away from the outstretched boot of Youngy.
Being undeservedly 1-0 down this was the catalyst the Oundle needed who pushed forward, George Martin going close with the Nottingham keeper doing well to save a 1 on 1, it was not long before coach Peter Ellis crossed the ball into the Nottingham D to find a wide open George ‘Phillips’ Martin who had the simplest of jobs of tapping home from half a yard out. With this the game became slightly more feisty, Peter Allett decided that he wasn’t going to let the Nottingham captain past him so took him out, and not for a nice meal, instead sending him skidding across the astro and receiving Oundles 2nd card of the match, this time a green.
With the game entering its final stages, the game became ever more feisty, the Nottingham stick tackles were flying in, when the ball was passed to the Nottingham captain on Oundles right he was stopped by fashionably late Brandon Ingle. The Nottingham captain decided that this was enough, threw down his stick and tried to square up to the youngest member on Oundles team. Despite no reaction from Bradon who did nothing but stand his ground the umpires decided that both players warranted a green card.
With about 1 minute to go before the end of the game the Nottingham left mid managed to beat a number of Oundle players and found his way into the Oundle D, a scuffed cross managed to trickle in at Youngys near post, who was unsighted and wrong footed. The whistle blew with a disheartened Oundle taking their 3rd loss in a row. Sparks nearly flew after the game with arguments between both sets of players and one of umpires but the situation was quickly diffused by cooler heads.
With no game next week, Oundle have a chance to recover and regroup. Results at the weekend have opened up a slight gap between the current bottom 5 and the mid table pack. With Oundle sitting just outside the relegation zone on goal difference. We go again with the local derby away to Northampton Saints 2s which always promises to be a good game. HWTL.