Newmarket Men’s 1s: 6-1 win vs Lowestoft Railway Men’s 1s (Away)
(Smith 3, Holden, Labuschagne, Wilson)
Newmarket’s final game of the season was to be a top of the table clash against the mighty Lowestoft Railway, a no-holds-barred battle for fourth place in what has been a tightly contested league this season. Several teams have struggled to maintain consistency and, while the big spenders faltered, smaller sides have taken the initiative and launched offensives up the rankings. There has been drama, disappointment, blood, sweat and tears; in short, nothing less than you would expect from the best league in the world. Why, then, the aforementioned actually decided to take place in Division 3NE is anyone’s guess.
Town rocked up at The Sandpit in a flurry of wind, rain and cigarette smoke – a sure sign that striker Jonny Bunker had earned himself another call up to the 1s. Weary from their long haul flight over, the squad trooped into the dressing room (which can be best described as ‘snug’) to find the sprightly figure of Captain Matt Holden lying in wait, brandishing a large kit bag. It quickly transpired that Newmarket’s loveable leader had either gone soft or put in a last ditch bid to win Player of the Season, as he had purchased his loyal followers a brand new 1st Team away kit – a fetching navy number with an elegant white trim – a strip that is truly befitting of a monarch, something that pleased King Louis Hrebeniak XVII so much, he had to have two bananas.
When the tropical fruit rations were fully depleted, Newmarket decided to go out and enjoy the British seaside weather by making some sandcastles. This plan quickly morphed into the construction of sand-dugouts, as there was no shelter, and then sand-hockey players, as there was no opposition.
Once the construction work had been completed, the Thinkerman gathered his troops into a tight huddle and set about explaining his tactical battle plan for the afternoon. Masterstroke after masterstroke followed as he outlined the genius strategy, but sadly I cannot repeat any of it here as then I’d have to kill you. It’s totally not because I can’t remember any of it. Honest.
Lowestoft took the pushback and then the lead shortly afterwards, the ball finding its way down Town’s left side before being expertly switched to the right by the home side’s point man. The recipient of this pass gleefully fired in a shot towards the far post, where it was deflected home superbly. 0-1, but if there was ever a time to break open the cliché dictionary, this was it. “They scored too early.”
Town quickly awoke and began to press forwards, having the best of the play through the centre and smuggling the ball into the opposing ‘D’ on a number of occasions. Newmarket’s full backs were the usual suspects with Darren Jenkins on the right and top scorer Will Wilson on the left, and they kept the opposition wingers in their pockets for the majority of the match, bombing forward and supporting the attack whenever possible. Perhaps fittingly, it was through the latter that Town equalised – Wilson stepped up to strike a Chris Leggett short corner and promptly buried it in the corner of the net, despite the best efforts of the home keeper. 1-1 the score.
Town’s next few attacks came down their left hand side, Dan Labuschagne on his 1st Team debut linking up well with Sam Smith, Hrebeniak and Wilson to create a few chances. Labuschagne nearly managed to put Newmarket ahead with a delightful reverse stick flick over the advancing keeper, but unfortunately it landed just the wrong side of the crossbar.
Then came Smith’s Gareth Bale-esque brilliance. Playing up top alongside Holden, he picked the ball up midway inside the Lowestoft half, kept the ball in play with a deft flick of his stick, beat three players, broke into the area and then daintily poked the ball past the keeper at his near post. 2-1, and possibly one of the goals of the season.
Lowestoft could obviously feel the game slipping away and attacked with renewed vigour, but they could find no way past the central defensive partnership of Jordan Newnes and Harrington – an affiliation that has proved extremely reliable this year. These two stony-faced hard men are seldom content with simply being the last line of defense and are often the first line of attack, picking out Holden and Bunker upon occasion with through balls. On the subject of last lines, special mention must go to Newmarket’s Scottish saviour, Martin McCourt. The Over 50s international showed his selectors that they made the wrong decision to call up his long lost brother Martin Mcourt for the World Cup, as he pulled off a number of excellent saves throughout the match. Then, he bought everyone beer afterwards! I know! Even Braveheart never did that!
At half time, the master tactician made a single change and brought on Ollie Trent, allowing King Louis the chance to nip to the shops and restock his supply of bananas. This instantly paid dividends as the Trent played a large part in the three goals that came within few minutes of the second half. The first came from that man Sam Smith who notched up his second with a powerful close range finish. Then, Labuschagne got in on the act with a brilliant debut goal, also from up close and personal with the flailing keeper. Finally, Smith obtained his hat trick and Trent’s work was done, leaving the field to a rapturous ovation from the assembled hordes. This had been one of his best games in Newmarket colours, although this was explained somewhat by the fact that Lowestoft U13 girls were warming up on the adjacent pitch.
Lowestoft tempers were beginning to fray, perhaps understandably when one considers the manner in which Town had snatched this game out of their grasp. Harrington, sniffing out an opportunity to get on the score sheet, rampaged forwards and found his way into the oppo ‘D’, but alas it was not to be and his tally stayed firmly stuck on ‘1’ for the season. As the opposition counter-attacked, Harrington wheeled around and thundered back down the pitch in the direction of his own goal, completing his little jaunt up pitch in the record time of less than ten minutes.
Holden was able to add the icing on the cake just before the final whistle when he burst forwards, rounded the keeper, took the ball back out to the edge of the ‘D’ (simply tapping in would have been far too easy for the great man) and then unleashed a thunderbolt into the unguarded net. 6-1, and game over shortly afterwards. Town go out on a high and a secure a very respectable 4th spot finish. Job done.
MOTM – Jointly goes to Sam Smith, for a superb hat trick and contribution in his last game for Town, and Dan Labuschagne for the complete debut performance in the centre of the park. A 1st Team regular for years to come, it seems.
DOTD – Simon Harrington for being late and, latterly, not there at all. However, I should like to take this opportunity to point out that I am in no way affiliated with this decision being reached and distance myself from it entirely. Also, I would like to say that Newnes has very nice hair. That is all. See you next season!
Above: Newmarket 1s demo their new away kit. Back row L-R: Sam Smith, Will Wilson, Matt Holden (C), Simon Harrington, Dan Labuschagne, Jonny Bunker. Front row: Darren Jenkins, Chris Leggett, Martin McCourt (GK), Jordan Newnes, Ollie Trent, Louis Hrebeniak.
Newmarket Men’s 2s: 2-1 win vs I-ES Men’s 4s (Home)
There are times in a team’s history when legend is made, when the record books are rewritten and luminaries are born. When seemingly normal men step onto a hockey pitch, proudly wearing the gold and navy of Newmarket Hockey Club, and are transformed from mere flesh and bone into mettle; a team of daring, audacity and resolve, a team that will be remembered in the mists of time for its moral fibre, courage and relegation from Division 4NE.
It all came down to the final game of the season with the M2s sat just above the relegation zone on nothing more than goal difference and a prayer. Last week’s team prayers that flight TAP-666 to Cap Verde would be cancelled were not answered and so the team prepared to play without the legendary leadership of Captain Drew Wood. Club accountants had been up all night working out the permutations, the results of which were summarised by Vice Captain Adrian Atkinson, “We need a win.” But more than that, the team also needed Ipswich 3s to lose against Norwich Dragons. But this seemed a certainty as they had previously been thumped 6 nil. So all we needed was a win!
The team gathered for their warm up, Atkinson looking lively, full of beans and keen to share pearls of hockeytastic wisdom. The IES players began to arrive and the psychological games started. They were dressed in black as if attending someones funeral! Moments later a low rumbling sound could be heard from Exning Road. The mix of screeching metal on metal and wood against tarmac grated on the nerves like fingernails drawn down a blackboard and yet, above the clatter of poorly maintained mechanics, a melody drifted on the breeze. As this unearthly contraption came into view it was immediately recognisable as a Trojan Horse and the music blaring from the drivers side window? It was George Formby on his famous ukulele singing ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows.’ A Trojan Horse is never good news but George brought a tear to this correspondents eye with memories of smoggy Manchester nights, Brown ale and steak and kidney pudding and chips. By gum! But as the drivers door opened, the mood changed and the music took a more sinister tone as ‘Making Your Mind Up’ by Bucks Fizz broke the nostalgic spell. And from the Trojan Horse stepped treachery, the likes of which had never been seen before. A hush fell across the crowd as the realisation set in; we’d be playing against Ollie ‘The Saboteur’ Wade, scorer of 2 goals this season for IES 1s!
For the biggest game this season, the M2’s lined up with Seth Bailey in goal, Peter Booth, Andy Baker, Adrian Atkinson and Mark ‘Arsenal’ Pears across the back, Marc ‘Mungo’ Prentice, James ‘Tag’ McTaggart, James Atkinson and Harry Bell in midfield, and with Lee ‘Budda’ Blades and William Hosegood up front. Oscar Kenny was the twelfth man used on a regular basis. The game began at a frantic pace both teams showing they meant business and both playing some great hockey. Newmarket found a new level this week and perhaps played with the most intensity we’ve seen all season. Several chances went missing, both Hosegood and Budda blasting over the bar and calling on the IES keeper to make some good saves. Both sides had penalty corners but neither could convert and it wasn’t until late in the first half that the first goal was scored. Newmarket won a free hit just outside the IES 23m line and up stepped Baker to take the free hit. A gentle tap to the right created the angle he was looking for and he drilled the ball through the top of the ‘D’ to the waiting Hosegood on the penalty spot. The ball took a deflection and Hosegood flicked the ball on the reverse stick towards goal. The keeper managed to get a pad on it but not enough to keep it out and Newmarket took a deserved 1:0 lead into the half time break.
The second half was more of the same from both teams as the game continued at a pace. Newmarket had lost the game in Ipswich and with the threat of relegation on the minds of all players, the team was digging deep. More chances were created especially for Budda who, in his inimitable style, continued to battle through various knocks, hamstrings, bruises, flu, chicken pox and other life long ailments, like the trooper he is. Midway through the second half IES opened the Newmarket defence like a tin of Prince’s sardines in tomato sauce; a neat move of short, sharp passes leaving Bailey helpless to prevent the equaliser. This was a testing time for Newmarket. Heads could have dropped but no, not today. Today was for heroes, legends and fireside stories of the future with Grandchildren and a cup of Horlicks. Newmarket continued to battle and more than held their own. Tag, young Atkinson and Bell combined well, threatening the IES ‘D’ on many occasions while keeping ‘The Saboteur’ neatly wrapped up and out of harms way. Kenny too brought options on the left showing a new found confidence and determination which bodes well for the future. The back four controlled the game for periods using the width well, waiting patiently for space to open up. When it did, with about 5 minutes to go, Budda received the ball to the right of the IES goal, dribbled left to round the keeper who was pressing him and had to lay it even further wide, almost out of reach, before diving at full stretch and taking the ball on the reverse stick to slot it home. The crowd went berserk as they sang their hearts out for the lads, “Town are staying up, Town are staying up.” The last 5 minutes were tense but Newmarket had done enough to secure all the points as the final whistle blew and bar some miracle for Ipswich 3’s, to remain in Division 4NE.
The bombshell dropped as the other results came through. Ipswich had beaten Norwich Dragons 9:0! A total of 57 goals this season and 16% of them come in the last game to secure their place in the league at the expense of Newmarket. There was disappointment but pride at the way we had played in the last game, and judging by the photos taken at the celebratory night out later that evening, the disappointment was soon forgotten.
Said photo supplied ;o)
Newmarket Ladies’ 1s: 3-1 win vs Pelicans Ladies’ 1s (Away)
(Cockeril, G. Evans, McDonnell)
Newmarket Ladies’ 3s: 0-1 loss vs Bury St Edmunds Ladies’ 3s (Away)
Above: The 2015/16 NHC Ladies’ 3s squad.
Click here to view photographs of the match by Michael Bennett.