Hockey: Mid-season review. Firsts still in it to win it…

By Keith Mager

FIRSTS

Thurrock 1st XI have had an up and down season so far with long spells of great results and then a poor spell towards the Christmas break. The new look Thurrock side had drafted in a few new players in particular the goalkeeper Danny Hik who was looking to cement his place in the top team in the club and also Kyle Taylor’s twin brother Jak Taylor who had finished University after achieving a 1st and signed up to join forces with his brother.

The First league game of the season was a bit of an experiment as the new players were finding their feet and the established players had had a few months off for the summer and needed to wipe the cobwebs off their sticks. The result was a 2-2 draw away to Saffron Walden with Jak Taylor scoring on his league debut but Thurrock couldn’t hold on for the win.

Following the first game stumble, Thurrock found their feet and gelled well and managed to notch up 6 wins on the trot including their best result so far – a 10-1 win over Crostyx 2nd XI. The captain Steven Abbott managed to grab himself 5 goals in the game. Within the 6 wins, Thurrock managed to score 32 goals whilst conceding only 8.

The Thurrock team had started to form a perfect formation with the keeper Danny Hik being a rock between the posts, Tommy Ing, Luke Danbrook and Andy Sargeant performing out of the skins in front of Danny. The combination of solid midfielders in Nick Stapleton, the coach Andre Rudder and Dan O’Shaughnessy, with the lightning quick brothers of Jak and Kyle Taylor on the wings resulted in brilliant plays, through balls and crosses for the prolific forwards of Steven Abbott, Christian Jenkins and Declan Millane. Liam Birch also played well when he was drafted in to replace one of the aforementioned team members.

After the first 5 or 6 games, the league started to split into 2 main groups with 5 teams pushing for promotion and with 6 wins from 7, Thurrock were well in contention to finish in the top two and secure that all important promotion into league 2S.

The next game saw Thurrock take on unbeaten East London in a top of the league clash. East London had not dropped a point in their first 7 games of the season scoring 32 goals and conceding 13, which gave Thurrock hope as they had been on par with the top side aside from their small slip up at the beginning of the season. The game was a thriller with East London taking the lead early on and doubling it soon after, but Thurrock were not going to go down easily and came back to take the lead 3-2 until the final minute when East London managed to grab a late equaliser and the points were shared. East London stayed top and Thurrock were to rue the final goal.

The final goal resulted in a couple of poor results following this, including one of the most anticipated games of the season so far – Southend vs Thurrock. 4 of the Thurrock 1st XI had transferred over from Southend in the past few years. The game was set to be a cracker and the result? one of the worst performances a Thurrock team has showed for many years. 5-1 the result.

The next game saw University of Essex travel to Palmers and again, Thurrock dropped 3 points conceding 4 and only managing to bag 3 in reply. Unfortunately the following game was postponed following a large amount of rain the morning of the game against Phoenix. this game will be replayed early in the new year if the weather permits.

The final couple of games were important for Thurrock as they wanted to finish on a high before the Christmas break to insure they stayed in contention at the top of the league. the penultimate game saw Saffron Walden travel to Palmers and the game was epic. The game mirrored the game at the started of the season with Thurrock finding themselves 2-1 up in the dying minutes. However, Thurrocks Achilles heal of defending short corners struck again and Thurrock thought they had thrown away another win. However, this time was different and Thurrock pushed till the final seconds and managed to grab a winner.

The final game ended in a 6-4 win for Thurrock away at Upminster which unfortunately saw the captain Steven Abbott go off with a calf injury but the other players around him secured the win and finished for Christmas on a high.

Some notable highlights include the 5 goals in a single game from Steven Abbott, some of the best hockey ever against Brentwood in the first half at Palmers and also away at Havering in a 7-0 thrashing, and some squeaky bum time goals from Declan Millane at Redbridge & Ilford, and Jak Taylor against Saffron Walden.

Onto the second half of the season where I’m sure there will be many more highlights. Come on you Tees!

SECONDS

The 2s had a disastrous start to the season, losing their first three matches, the worst of which saw them taking to the field with just 9 men against Upminster. This match in particular was a turning point for Thurrock. A lesser group would have called it a day, but the 2s have strong roots, and a rallying call from the skipper Keith Mager was answered in no uncertain terms, not least in their match away to Old De Ferrians when 2-0 down at half time and 2-1 down with five minutes left on the clock, the Tees never gave in, culminating in a last minute winner from the stick of Ricky Smith. That win propelled the 2s on to a streak of five games unbeaten, four wins and a draw, dragging them up from bottom of division 5 to within two points of a promotion place.

Defeats to the four strongest sides in the division though, namely Witham, Southend, Wapping and Upminster again have stalled the 2s surge towards division 4, and now they are aiming at realistically a top half finish at best.

High points this season for the 2s have been Sam Webb’s rise from being a very promising young player, to being the first name on the team sheet, Ricky Smith’s last minute winner against Old De Ferrians, the best team performance by the 2s in years, taking apart promotion candidates Colchester in a 5-2 home win, and the introduction of young stars Tom Archer and Josh Bridges-Poley against a very experienced Wapping XI.

The Tees will hope to avenge their defeat against Ramgharia when the league reconvenes in January, but will need the full commitment of experienced men such as Darren Higgins, Chris Smith, Mike Hewing and Ash Snell to do so.

THIRDS

Newly promoted into Division 7, Thurrock began the season eagerly. However shortage of players meant that the first game away from home had to be forfeited and two home games only took place with players doubling up from other teams.

By the middle of October the addition of a few young players meant that the remainder of the fixtures have been fulfilled. The team has suffered heavy defeats of 1-7 to Saffron Walden and 1-8 to Colchester but have managed to defeat Chelmsford, Redbridge and Ilford, Wapping and Rochford. This has maintained a mid-table position throughout most of the first half of the season.

New member Alex Thompson has shown great leadership in midfield  whilst youngsters Jo Harvey, Ethan Pinion and Aaron Saunders are improving every week and show a lot of promise for the future of the Club.  The aim is to maintain the same form during the second half of the season and avoid any hint of relegation so that we can push on to do even better next year.

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