LX CLUB at European Trophy Tournament, Bra, Italy

6th to 10th June 2012

LX Red Over 60’s team report

The LX Red o60s travelled to Bra, Italy for the WGMA European Tournament Trophy competition with strong hopes of retaining the trophy won at Braxgata HC in 2010.  It was a small, but select squad of 13 players, and a challenge for the tournament was going to be avoiding injury, especially amongst the forward and mid-field players.  It had been hoped to travel with a squad of 14 but Steve Branston had, unfortunately, to pull out on medical advice.

The first hurdle to overcome was an administrative one.  It became clear at the pre‑tournament Manager's meeting that the idea of using the designated Team Manager, Mark Watson, as a playing substitute was not going to work due to the bureaucracy and paperwork involved.  An alternative solution was quickly required and the decision was made to elect Trish Slator as the Team Manager for the purposes of dealing with the paperwork required for each match.  This was in addition to her role as team medic/physio.

With 20 minutes each way for each of the 1st round pool games it was going to be very much a case of hitting the ground running, getting some early goals and then ensure that none were conceded.  It was then to our first game and, as appears to have become the norm at these tournaments, it was against the Welsh in the form of the Welsh Dragons.  Expecting the Welsh to play a defensive style of game it came as something of a surprise to find them in much more of an attacking frame of mind.  This led to a much more challenging game but the LX came out on top with a 2-0 win at the final whistle.  It has to be said that the LX were very fortunate not to have a penalty flick awarded against them following an unintentional back stick offence in the ‘D’ by their captain, Richard Slator, in defence of a penalty corner.

And so on to the next two matches against the Germany B and the Dutch ‘De Zestigplussers’ B sides.  Neither side were as strong as was expected and, although the LX Red had to work for their wins, comfortable victories were achieved with 8 goals scored against the Germans and 4 against the Dutch.  It was during the course of these games that it became evident that John Smith’s leg injury was severely restricting his movement and that it was unlikely that he would be participating in any further matches unless absolutely necessary.  Brian Stokes then moved into the unfamiliar, from his perspective, inside left, left mid-field role.

Next was the match against Egypt (European?) played on the Friday afternoon with both sides having played matches in the morning, the Egyptians against Germany B and LX against the Dutch.  In previous matches the Egyptians did play and put up some resistance but against the LX there did not appear to be any appetite to really try and play.  The result was that the 1st goal was in the back of the net within 36 seconds of the start; the 2nd followed within 2 minutes of the start.  The score than ran up to 6 at half time.  For the 2nd half LX slowed the pace down and the opportunity was taken to rotate the forwards and mid-field to give the players a bit of a break.  However, it was important to keep the goals coming as goals for/goal difference could have a bearing on the final outcome of the tournament.  LX eventually finished the match with 11 goals scored.

The final 1st round pool game, played on the Saturday morning, was against Italy who provided a tougher test for the LX.  Italy played a very defensive game and it proved difficult to break down but LX eventually came out as winners by just the 1 goal.  This left the LX Red at the top of their group with 5 wins, 26 goals for and 0 against.

In the afternoon, the 1st of the 2nd round of pool games were played with the pool being formed from the top 2 sides from the initial two groups.  In their ‘semi-final’, the LX Red took on Germany A who had come 2nd in their group behind the Dutch.  As expected, this proved a much sterner test for the LX who were certainly troubled during the 1st half.  Fortunately for LX the key German player, Nico Giercke, decided that Santa Bansal was the man to keep an eye on which meant that he played a very defensive role and contributed little to any attacking moves.  The 2nd half saw a much more determined and cohesive response from the LX leading to probably the best spell of hockey played at the tournament.  It was during this period of play that Brian Stokes scored his first goal in an international tournament much to his obvious delight!  The result was a 3-0 win for the LX which then put them into the ‘final’ match against the Dutch ‘De Zestigplussers’ A side.

The final game of the tournament saw the Dutch and the LX Red sides in exactly the same position, with the same number of points, same number of goals for and the same goal difference.  This meant that, should the match finish as a draw, then the dreaded penalty shootout competition came into effect; something that nobody wanted!

The final proved to be a much more balanced game with the LX Red put under some real pressure and Eric Best (GK) having to do some real work rather than just going to collect the ball when it went off the end of the pitch.  Eric pulled off a fine save when a shot struck his helmet, not that he had too much idea where it went after that, and Neil Stone also pulled off a classic stop just inside the post from a well struck penalty corner.  A penalty flick converted by Santa saw the LX go into half time with a 1-0 lead; certainly not enough to ensure victory.

The LX gradually turned the game around in the 2nd half as their superior fitness started to tell and the Dutch resorted to trying to play the long ball up the field.  It was in the 2nd half that a quickly taken hit in from the side-line by Trevor Denison found Santa unmarked near the top of the D.  Santa needed no encouragement and quickly advanced into the D and slotted the ball past the Dutch goal keeper.  A 3rd goal also came from Santa and Trevor working together but this time it was Santa who drew the keeper leaving Trevor with the simple task of putting the ball into an empty net.

It was during the 2nd half that LX lost their ‘clean sheet’ when a ball struck hard by a Dutchman into the D was just clipped by another Dutchman inside the D and the ball went into the net.  Although Eric had the ball covered he clearly felt that it had not been touched and effectively let the ball into the net rather than play safe and clear.  Needless to say he received plenty of stick and ribbing about this but it was dished out and taken in good humour.

A well deserved final victory by a highly motivated, determined and fit squad of players who played together as a team.  This was noted and commented on by the Dutch after the final who said that “on an individual basis we were probably not the stronger side but, as a team, there was no beating us” (or words to that effect).  A lot of hard work and effort was put in by all and it was a privilege to lead the side.  Santa was our top goal scorer (how many is not known!) and the top goal scorer for the tournament at the o60s level.

I cannot complete this report without mentioning the wives and partners who were in fine voice and provided such tremendous support during the course of the tournament.  It was probably not the easiest of tournaments for them because the location of the hotel meant that there was a lot of time spent at the ground before, after and between matches.  However, this did provide them with the opportunity to wander into Bra, to sample the coffee shops and ice cream parlours there.

Squad: Eric Best (GK), Alan Muller (vice capt.), Mark Watson, Neil Stone, Brian Stokes, Geoff Lucas, Ian Mellor, Richard Slator (capt.), John Smith, Imtiaz Sheik-Mahmood, Greg Hutchings, Santa Bansal, Trevor Denison

Results: Welsh Dragons  w 2 – 0; Germany B   w 8 – 0; De Zestigplussers B  w 4 – 0; Egypt    w 11 – 0; Italy  w 1 – 0; Germany A    w 3 – 0; De Zestigplussers B         w 3 – 1

Goals Total:     32 for, 1 against