After a mid-summer break, the type of which would be rejected by the FA but much needed by a bunch of old codgers who’ve played two weeks in row, it was back to business in the Reading Veterans Super Pro League. For the game against Marlow Bottom Aylesbury recalled Ed Hill after a second opinion from an official working at the WHVC.co.uk passed him fit to play and likewise, Bob Gregory returned following his own injury and the celebrations following his 76th birthday. In a much changed side from the rampant 0-0 draw against Reading Olympians the Ducks also recalled Dave Skinner in goal much to the surprise of the pundits who were quick to criticise Matt Kiely that his selection was based on reputation and not form. Tim Heale in the studio was quoted as saying “he’s a good geezer and to be fair he fills the goal well but, like, I played well and fought I deserved another chance innit. Can’t blame him though. Kiely’s a to$$er and I never liked him”).
With Jaypee Wentzel having retired from Vets hockey and Dan Bleach “Doing a Bowesy/Pridge” (delete as required) it was fortunate however that Aylesbury could welcome back into the fold Reading and England’s recent World Cup Bronze medallist Pete Wright (Aylesbury 1st XIs all-time record appearances 1955-2000) and with such class in the midfield Aylesbury were in confident mood.
Before the game, Captain Kiely was put in his place with Gregory Snr taking over the selection and building the team very much around himself. Chris Hunter was dropped to the bench for being such a lazy [this word has been automatically replaced due to its expletive nature], as much as it was due to the nepotism afforded to son Paul who was himself at risk of being marginalised if Kiely had had any say in the line-up.
Little did it matter though as top scorer Dave How had been moved back into his forward position, thankful to be able to able to avoid the running required in midfield in the stifling 110% humidity. With just 4 minutes on the clock, Wright cracked a ball into the D, How made the lead across the face, calmly picked up the pass, gave the keeper the eye, bought him a drink and slid the ball between his legs all in one fluid motion. There were no high fives and How was substituted.
One soon became two. A quick (relatively) break by Paul Gregory through the middle left him and Hunter with a 2 v 1. Instead of doing what every coach ever would have told him and running at an angle to draw the last man and create space for the pass Paul put head down and ran straight at the defender. This meant the angle for the pass pushed Hunter much wider than he wanted to me. The sceptic might have thought Gregory did so to force Hunter into a square pass back to Gregory with a better chance to score himself. The sceptic then realised this was Paul Gregory and he really didn’t have a clue what he was doing. Still, the pass found Hunter who did look up and see Gregory looking for the return. However Hunter thought better of it and flicked the ball in at the near post for a 2-0 lead.
The next goal to make it 3-0 was the pick up the bunch. Hill picked the ball up in the 25 and trotted across the D in a ‘Half-pass’ fashion (1). The defender though was aggressive, like a jockey using excessive whip against his steed his stick was hacking at Ed’s legs as he pushed through. Everyone could see the anger building in Ed’s face as he looked set to rage like he was in the Shining, “Redrum, redrum”. Hill though put the blinkers on and decided the better course of action was to unleash a bullet of a reverse stick strike into the bottom corner then to turn and stare intently at his defeated foe.
Now Aylesbury were rampant. At one point the team in red kept possession for 3 or 4 minutes. Fluid movement, fast pace, the ball pinged about and Marlow had no answer. Quite simply it was Total Hockey. Eventually this period came to an end when the ball reached Bob Gregory who while tripping over his feet mis-controlled the ball to return possession to the thankful opposition. But it didn’t matter. Aylesbury were back in possession and back on the attack winning a penalty corner. Gregory Junior injected, apparently as he is able to generate top spin, but sadly could not generate accuracy, and the top D senior pairing of Gregory and Wright had to improvise. A short came in and the keeper went down to save but as he looked up he saw How gathering the rebound. As the prostrate keeper looked up and said “oh c0ck”, How simply put the ball in with a trademark finish from 3 feet. INTO THE ROOF LIKE A MISSILE.
It was time for more of Captain Kiely’s infamous tactical changes. Forwards moved to defence, defenders shoved up front. The ploy was to not embarrass the opposition but the team feared another comfortable lead could be quickly washed away due to the incompetence and tactical naivety of their leader. But Kiely got lucky. Even with Ben Husbands storming through from top of the midfield diamond looking much like a palm tree in the middle of the Antarctic, Aylesbury contrived to score a fifth before half time and could have had more. First up, Wright found himself in the D with the keeper lying flat on the floor. With all the time in the world, like a master he pulled the ball back, created space and then from 5 yards put the ball 2 yards over the bar. Wright’s confidence was not knocked though. A crashed ball from Jules Park was deflected by Ali Blest taking a wild swipe at the ball in attempt to score a wonder goal. The ball came up but Wright showed rapid reactions belying his years to swat the ball home on the volley.
At half time, Kiely warned the team that we were not to score any individual wonder goals. If we had to score they had to be team efforts. Inspirational leadership. Oddly, he said that applied especially to How. One can only imagine that he reads these match reports and truly believes the descriptions of the goals attributed to the deadly ginger striker (and author of the match reports) despite being a first-hand witness. Still, taking no risks, as he had done when 1st XI Captain in the late 90’s, he moved How to sweeper.
Now given the desire was not to embarrass the opposition, the irony was that at one stage Aylesbury found themselves with Bowes and Kiely himself up front. Could there have been a bigger mickey taking ever in the history of hockey? Fortunately, no goal was scored during this period, no team goal and certainly no wonder goal by the dual pronged hobbit attack.
Now, I will tell you as author, the rest of what happened in the second half I cannot tell you a great deal about. As previously stated I was now in defence and most of the play was at the other end. This is coupled with the fact that today I needed an eye test so where as much of what has been written to date was a reasonably close to factual recollection of events, what goes next is likely to sit between guesswork and outright lies.
However, back to the game. Early in the second half Skinner made a couple of excellent saves and showed some nifty footwork at one point setting up an attack. The defence repelled any attack that came and kept Skinner’s match fee to a satisfying £1.25 per touch. Blest was dominating the centre of midfield showing up the ‘youngsters’ for pace, agility and skill orchestrating many an attack. Wright had pushed up to left wing hoping to exploit a pace advantage over the Marlow fullback and Jules Park was using his fitness to torment down the right. Up front the team appeared to have listened to Kiely’s half time commands and demonstrated clearly they were not willing to risk being labelled with wonder goal. Both Gregory’s fluffed shots and Hunter kept passing in the D. Ed as ever just dribbled round and round in circles.
Eventually though, model professional Wright had enough of umpiring, handed over the whistle to Gregory senior and took back control of the game. In a crowded D Wright again reacted quickly stretching for a loose ball as the keeper threw himself to the floor. Wright reached the ball first making good contact and as he tumbled over he would just have seen the ball rise up into the far top corner of the net for 6-0. The crowd (Mick Hunter and Adam Pusey) stood and applauded. Surely two goals and such a resounding victory would be up there with the World Cup medal winning game.
But still Aylesbury were not done. Another scramble in the D followed the minimum number of passes required to constitute a ‘team goal’, eventually the ball falling somewhat fortuitously to Paul Gregory. Some say he dinked it over the keeper, others say it was a miss-hit pass. Either way it was seventh heaven for Aylesbury and the dream lives on that league victory and qualification for Europe is on the cards. The hope for Captain Kiely is that Aylesbury don’t end up losing out on goal difference as he knows where the blame will lay.
The usual post-match analysis concluded with Dave Skinner confused how to handle his beer and two cheeseburgers simultaneously and Paul Gregory losing out in an eBay style bid for the last burger to Adam Pusey who won with a £1 max bid. This upset Mick Hunter tremendously who not 30 seconds earlier had parted with £4 for a beef patty and a bun of no higher quality. What was most unusual was that the analysis on the journey home took on a very serious twist with discussion avoiding the relative merits of Dave How and Ed Hill’s shocking aerials, Kiely’s appalling Captaincy, Pridge’s most recent excuse for unavailability and even the West London debacle to concentrate on the relative merits of the Stay and Leave campaigns. Needless to say the great politicians of this Aylesbury Vets side concluded unanimously that one side were quite simply stark raving mad lunatics.
(1) To move forward and sideways at the same time, flexed in the direction of travel [http://www.horseandrideruk.com/article.php?id=1979]