“Slow” Clark fires Banbury to glory as Banbury 2s Lift the National Plate Trophy

Banbury win 2-0 after shootout

A classic game of two halves sent the National Men’s 2nd XI Plate home with Banbury after a stirring comeback took the game into a shootout, which they held their nerve (as did the poor suffering supporters!) to win. 

Well this is what the England Hockey site headline grabber said minus the supporter comment – but in reality the first half was far from “classic”. Albeit it is an innovative strategy to lull your oppo into a false sense of security by playing like drains in the first half so they go in at half time 3-0 up and pinching themselves and become over confident and complacent for the second half…..and consequently throw the game away. It just would’ve been nice to let the travelling support know this on the quiet as they sat in the freezing cold stands under the grey forlorn skies having got up at 5am to watch their heroes play with the intensity and structure of a group of octogenarians on a day out to the seaside.

Having said that this did make the turnaround in the 2nd half even more exciting and woke the pitch commentator up giving him more to talk about than the inane “partridge-esque” ramblings inflicted on us for the first hour and a half we were there – the highlight being – “who’s got the most colourful umbrella?!” challenge ……

So nicking a “bit from the EH Website report – Bedford started the game well and after 14 minutes took the lead through Adam Knibbs who’s unchallenged low flick wormed its way weakly into the net. They enjoyed the better of the territory and possession and added to their tally thanks to a lovely reverse stick finish from Rich Hamilton. Banbury mounted some offence and saw two efforts cleared off the line – one excellent clearance on the line by the Bedford left back from Max Grosmith’s fierce high flick. The Banbury defence and midfield struggled to maintain momentum and structure as 50/50 balls were lost and possession given away. Young Kit Lamb in goal pulled off some great saves to keep the score down, then towards the end of the half Banbury started to keep their shape and play more effectively. However, sweeping counterattack from Bedford left them with a four-on-one and Adam Seward was on hand to apply the finish. At 3-0 the casual observer would have said “game over” …..but as we now know having seen Leicester win the Prem (not sure if anyone has spotted the rather sparse media coverage?)…..miracles can happen!

Banbury came out after the break and looked a different team. The defensive unit of Matt Bull, Simon West, Ian Reynolds, Josh Chapman and  Peter Lamb looked more solid and provided a more effective platform to build play. Banbury immediately reduced the arrears thanks to a penalty corner from Matthew Bull. The momentum had shifted and now it was all Banbury in attack. Youngsters Ian Reynolds, Jonny Stirrup, Tim Brown, Christian Squire and Harry Simons played their part but it was the experienced heads of Richard Foreman,  Adrian Simons and Tyson Nunneley who really stamped their authority in midfield and linked well with the excellent Ashley Laverick on the right who’s searching attacks won several short corners.  A well worked penalty corner set up Dave Clark who made no mistake to make it 3-2. West and Chapman at the back were particularly impressive in tackling and distributing effectively as Bedford’s attacking force ran out of steam and Banbury’s hallmark turnover attacks sapped the strength from the Bedford midfield and defence. With four minutes remaining Clark repeated the trick with the same corner and made it 3-3. Banbury came close in the final couple of minutes and could have won the game but for the fantastic efforts of the Bedford keeper and defensive unit.

The final whistle went and so it went to a penalty shoot out – the pitch commentator went into “Partridge” over load and the 1980s music went up a few hundred decibels much to everyone’s appreciation…….the Banbury support went wild and were certain our well honed and drilled heroes would make this a forgone conclusion……we are more deluded than a Trump supporter after all…..

Banbury went first but the Bedford’s Pete Fannon made a great save from Adrian Simons. Steve Adams took Bedford’s first but it went over the bar after Banbury’s keeper, Kit Lamb, closed him down effectively. Fannon saved again from Tyson Nunneley but Bedford missed again as Lamb brilliantly delayed him and saved the desperate flick. Finally Banbury’s Laverick held his nerve and broke the deadlock by dummying and rounding the flailing keeper superbly, and then Hamilton missed for Bedford as hero, Kit Lamb yet again rushed off his line like a slavering berserker. Then much to the Banbury crowd’s delight Clark, the two-goal hero, coolly slotted his home and with Wilson’s lofted effort saved by the excellent Kit Lamb, the Oxfordshire outfit took the win. The crowd went mad, the commentator “out-Partridged” himself and hero Lamb gathered elated Banbury players as he ran up the pitch in joyous celebration – a tremendous victory pulled from the jaws of defeat as they say!

Banbury Men’s 2s truly brought the house down and lifted the Plate in victory.

Quotes of the day…….

Simon West captain Banbury HC

‘Credit to Bedford really put us under the pressure, 3-0 down but we kept going. We took our time to adjust to the water based as we are normally used to sand dressed. I am really pleased with the guys today after having a great season. At halftime I told the lads to just get the next goal and see where that goes to generate a bit of momentum and try to put them under the pressure. Thankfully we have some good experience players to get back into it. Dave has been doing that for years, the same thing he is just a lot slower doing the same thing. This means a lot for the club as we are building the juniors as you saw some of the guys there and in a few years hopefully in a first team final.’

I have to say Westy this is one of the best back handed “compliments” I’ve seen since Sir Lawrence Olivier told Dustin Hoffman (an early and real exponent of method acting) after he’d forced himself not to sleep for a week in preparation for his challenging role in The Marathon Man – “great performance dear boy – but why not try “acting”??).

Banbury’s manager, Tony Instone, congratulated Bedford on a hard fought match – “Bedford were well drilled and came at us hard for the first 25 minutes and we just didn’t settle into a rhythm until the back end of the first half. We thought an early goal in the second half would change the momentum and so we set up to play more aggressively. The lads worked hard and never gave in which is a real credit to them all. Clark and Laverick particularly held their nerve in the shoot out but hats off to our young keeper, Kit Lamb, who saved every shot thrown at him in the penalty shoot out. A great day for the club.”

Banbury 3 (0)
Matthew Bull 37 (PC)
Dave Clark 60, 65 (PC, PC)

Bedford 3 (3)
Adam Knibbs 13 (FG)
Rich Hamilton 20 (PC)
Garry Newman 29 (FG)