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LXO60’s / Home Nations Spirit of Masters / Southgate HC / 20,21,22 May 2022

The Team:

Graham (Smoggy) Small, John (Pep) Steakhouse, Gary (Psycho) Perkins, Steve (Pygmyhog) Foster, Mick (T-Bone) Huggon, Malcom (Cleansheet) Teasdale, Bruce (Snoopy) Baron, Chris (Discountcard) Topham, Nic (Hellokitty) Crocker, John (Vicious) Barratt, Julian (Bendy) Bills, Fraser (Alexa) Black, Andy (Leftfield) Cutting, Robert (Itoje) Dyball, Mandeep (Tina) Hansra, David (Tractorboy) Lancaster, Colin (Hostess) Taylor, Pete (Diehard) Willis, Mike (Hoppity) Wingent, Martin (Oblique) Wright

The Venue:

Southgate Hockey Club nestles in the gentle green folds of Trent Park in the borough of Bromley, home to both Men’s and Ladies National League teams and to the rare and elusive Pygmy Hog (more of which later). The sports facility is an almost model example of how hockey clubs should be designed: a large balconied clubhouse with a decked and canopied hog roasting area (more of which later), both overlooking two excellent adjoined Astro’s, generous warm-up and practice areas and ample parking space with generously sized bays for the many massive SUV’s, high performance Coupes and Executive saloons so necessary for hockey players to get comfortably from tournament to tournament in these days of impending Climate Crisis. All UK clubs should follow this fantastic sports centre blueprint, requiring only a modest expenditure in the region of £5 million. Come on you provincial clubs, what’s stopping you? Level up!

The Town:

Southgate central presents a perplexing mix of cosmopolitan leisure opportunities: Spanish Tapas, Italian Osteria & Wetherspoons! The squad efficiently blagged into them all by our own fixer; Hostess, thank-you. Current affairs discussions the exchange of ‘off-grid’ medical interventions quickly descended into low quality banter, taunting, name calling and excruciating punning. Highlight: the no holds barred fight over the last steak in the world between Pep and T-Bone and the subsequent sulking fit by the loser.

The Competition:

Spirit of Masters HN, a competition usually involving like-minded Grand Masters O60’s teams (well, LX, Thistles, Dragons, Shamrocks at least) requiring considerable hockey and social skills in equal proportions. How can we make it better? I know, let’s add the England B O60’s and O65’s into the mix as they don’t have anyone else to play and need some practice. To be fair, with the Shamrocks withdrawing and the Dragons focusing on their (not inconsiderable) social skills the two extra teams did help with the hockey bit.

The Results:

Day 1, Game one, vs the Dragons. Win 5-1 (Scorers: Hoppity (2), Tractorboy, Hostess, Vicious). A great game to start with. The first opportunity for coach Steakhouse to try out his ultra-modern 4-4-2 formation with sweeper and midfield diamond. Unbelievable Jeff! A routine victory with the highlight being the “disappearance” of the coaches’ whiteboard complete with tactical plan and its reappearance later on e-bay (it’s still there).

Day 1, Game two, vs England O60’s B. Loss 1-2 (Scorer: Pygmyhog). A toughie as England B is a very good team; fit, skilful and (over)confident; the competition winners elect. However, a fair proportion of the LX squad are either prior England B players, England B trialists, England B aspirants or England B rejects. And it showed. Basically, the result can be divided into 2-0 to England B for the first 20 minutes and 1-0 to LX for the last 30 minutes. Highlight; the looks of sheer relief on the England B faces at the final whistle.

Day 2, Game three, vs Thistles, Win 2-0 (Scorers: Tractorboy, Hostess). Thistles are always a dour challenge. Playing their traditional 6-4-0 formation they are difficult to break down especially with LX having their own internal competition of who can miss the goal in the most creative manner? Eventually it was easier to score than miss, despite Hostess trying to rewrite the rules for short corner taking. The highlight: Snoopy demonstrating, on a very warm day, his Cephalopod-like ability to change the colour of his face to what Farrow & Ball would no doubt call Volcano Rouge!

Day 3, Game four, vs England O65B, Win 1-0 (Scorer: Itoje). The opposition could well have been renamed LXO60B given the number of LX’rs fielded. Nonetheless this was a tough challenge. Great performance by the entire team and particularly the hardworking midfield of group Vicious, Oblique, Tina, Psycho and Leftfield. The highlight: Without a doubt the goal of the tournament. Itoje charged down a lofted clearance by the centre-back, pounced on the loose ball, bore down on the utterly stunned keeper and quickly solving the Taylor Series f(x) approximation for Tangential approach, scored from the incredibly narrowest of angles. Erk!

Day 3, The Final vs England O60B, Loss 2-1 (Scorer: Tractorboy). Rematch, but unfortunately no revenge. Another incredibly close game. Both teams having learnt from their first encounter brought different tactics to the event. LX playing a deep press to try to expose the opposition back three and England B, scheduled for just the one match, sleeping until about 2pm and rolling up the pitch in the late afternoon having had a light high-protein lunch at the local bistro in time for their gentle warm-up. Highlight: Great performances from the rotating back line: Cleansheet, Discountcard, Hellokitty, Bendy, Diehard and Alexa to keep LX in the game at 1-1 until late in the day.

The Hog Roast

Never in all my…  (This match report has been shortened due to space)