A Whole Season Unbeaten?
by Kieran Stables
The 4s arrived at HMS on a rainy Saturday afternoon, looking to continue their excellent form of being unbeaten all season. We faced Stockton 5s, another team in good form, who we knew would want to end our remarkable run.
We had to recruit a mixture of players from all 4 men’s teams, as well as three willing players from the ladies’ teams (Emma Dewar, Valerie Brown and Becca Love). George Moore took position as a make-shift goalkeeper, whilst John Brierley played in an unusual position of CB; Cuthbert Craig and Nathan Hart-Hendy were also making their debuts for the club. Usual captain Grant Folley had been promoted to the 3s, so Timothy Stafford took the reins of the 4th team for this crucial game.
JPC started the game well, having the most possession and being very positive and comfortable with the ball. Stockton’s front 3 were all young and inexperienced, which enabled us to operate a high defensive line, and the wing-backs were able to push further up the field. Nathan Hart-Hendy was making excellent runs down the wing, and alistair white was dominating the middle of the park. However, due to many members of our team playing in different positions, and lots of ongoing substitutions, we became very unorganised and exposed at the back. Stockton realised this, and pounced, catching us out on the counter attack, after a hit straight down the middle of the pitch from their experienced central defender found its way to their striker, but, thankfully, George Moore saved the shot and managed to clear the danger. A few minutes after this wake-up call, Emma Dewar received the ball in midfield, before skilfully distributing it to Nathan Hart-Hendy out on the left, who sent it across the goal with Jacob Ravenhall getting on the end of it, scoring his 7th goal of the season, continuing his quest to receive the ‘Golden Stick’ and the ‘Hockey d'Or’.
We started the second half as we finished the first, we ensured everyone knew where they were playing, and we showed a lot more commitment and urge to get the ball and keep it safe. If they managed to get the ball, we quickly and constantly shut them down in order to regain possession; Tom Melbourne and alistair white were instrumental at this. Nathan Hart-Hendy then received the ball on the left wing and cleverly found Kevin McNab, who hit the ball into the back of the net to score his first ever goal for JPC. All 3 supporters on the side-line were going wild, chanting songs like: ‘Kevin’s on fire, your defence is terrified’ and ‘Always believe in, Kev McNab’. GOAT. Unfortunately he wrecked this special moment by celebrating it with a dab, which later resulted in serious disciplinary action from the manager, in the form of a fine.
Despite being 2-0 ahead, we were hungry for more goals, and our whole team was pressing high, with Kieran Stables at one point showing his ‘pace’ by chasing a Jesmond clearance all the way to the other end of the pitch, only just missing it. A few minutes later, an incisive pass allowed Stockton’s striker to be through on goal, until Timothy Stafford made an excellent jab-tackle to eliminate the threat. However, in this process, their striker sustained an ankle injury so was forced to leave the pitch, and, since they brought no substitutes, Nathan Hart-Hendy was loaned to Stockton, after only playing 60 minutes for JPC and getting two assists. This transfer appeared to rejuvenate Stockton, with Nathan having one of the opposition’s most clear-cut opportunity to score, before sending it inches wide. George Moore also made a remarkable save with his left deflector from point-blank range. Kieran Stables was also making some crucial challenges as right-back to deny Stockton a way back into the game. At this point, both teams were tiring, and eventually the final whistle blew, confirming our unbeaten record was still intact.
We later gathered at Jesmond Cricket Club for match teas. We checked the latest scores and relished at the fact Sunderland had lost again. After the ladies failed to understand our MOTM and fines voting system, it was announced that Nathan Hart-Hendy and Kieran Stables received the joint Man-of-the-Match award, the former for his assists and an impressive debut, and the latter for his ‘excellent runs and solid defensive work’. Unfortunately we couldn’t actually analyse how far Kieran ran as he wasn’t wearing his fake Fitbit watch during the game, which earnt him a fine, as well as for ‘not being captain’ and ‘being a lifeguard’. Fortunately, Nathan Hart-Hendy was also fined for being mistaken for being Harry Kane (looks-wise and skills-wise).
We will return next weekend against Hartlepool & Billingham, looking to continue our fine form, and hopefully achieve a record which even Pep Guardiola would be proud of.