The sub-zero temperatures meant Mill Farm continued to be unplayable (unfortunately the sun doesn't hit one side of the pitch due to the large building next door) so all home games were called off, and most of the away games as well, leaving just one match played.
Windermere 2 1-2 Fylde 2
North West Men's Division 4 North | England Hockey
With Fylde’s home games being called off on Friday evening given the weather forecast, the Men's 2’s fully expected their away fixture in Windermere to also be called off as all our weather apps showed sub-zero in Cumbria.
Messages were exchanged in the morning with a 10.30 deadline for a decision, and alternative plans for the day were being hatched. Spending time with the family, staying in bed a bit longer, a trip to IKEA, a country walk in the bright sunshine. At 10.20 the surprise news came through that the game was on, so kits were hurriedly packed, alternative plans canceled, and the search for an 11th player stepped up, after a couple of overnight withdrawals.
No luck finding any spare players, half the team set off after 11 from Mill Farm in the party bus of stand-in captain Pete Latimer. Injured Ollie Holmes joined the group, and despite pleading he insisted that no he wouldn’t stand on the pitch with a stick as an 11th man, as his recovery has only progressed to walking slowly, and anything extra had the danger of shattering his ankle into tiny pieces and finishing his hockey career before his prime. Instead he was happy managing and intense tactical discussions ensued.
Arriving at the pitch around 35 mins before pushback, the team was up to 8, with two delayed but promising to arrive before the start, but also a message that Martin Stringfellow was on his way, as both the Ladies 3’s and 4’s games which he would normally manage, had been cancelled. The 10-man strategy that had taken an hour to devise was scrapped, and an alternative formation quickly developed, still with the theory of being conservative with a single striker and the objective of keeping a clean sheet (partially to annoy the missing captain-keeper Craig Nutter who'd recently admitted it's been so many years since he'd last had one).
Martin arrived in time for the warm-up, but no sign of Andy Lund and Connor McClelland, had they been kidnapped by Debbie and now trapped in the IKEA maze? Whilst warming up, we noticed a black car driving past the pitch down the narrow lane that leads to nowhere, reverse out and then a couple of minutes later drive into the school car park. It was indeed the Lund/McClelland car and the team was now complete with 5 minutes to push-back.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it was Windermere who started the brighter, having a lot of possession, but no real inroads initially. There were a couple of moments when the ball crossed the D, but it either went untouched or young goalkeeper Alex Fuller safely kicked away. Fylde's confidence gradually increased, started passing, and having attacks of their own, with Adam Bate and Richard Clarke causing problems for Windermere. Clarke was obviously too much of a handful that a free hit was launched into his knee, and play for stopped for a few minutes whilst he stumbled off the pitch, but he was a hero and came back on shortly afterwards.
A series of short corners were won, but the injections were going astray and no clear shot could be had. On the fourth attempt however, Andy Lund found his target with the injection and it was over to Adam Bate to show what he could do. Hit the ball, yes, firmly, not quite, with enough force and bobble to confuse the keeper, yes, into the goal, yes, they all count, they certainly do.
The whistle went for the end of the first half, and it was a perfect situation, a clean sheet and a lead, more of the same was requested for the second half, before bodies tire.
Windermere increased their pressure in the second half, and started causing problems at the back with some quality dribbling and speed off the ball. There were numerous battles within the D, and whilst the Fylde defence managed to clear the ball for most of them, Windermere did manage to score the equaliser. They could have gone ahead but for some quality reaction saves from Alex Fuller in goal.
Fylde's heads didn't drop as they had some good possession themselves, attacking on both wings. A quickly taken free hit just inside Windermere's half, played square by Andy Lund to Pete Latimer, immediately transferred up field to Martin Stringfellow in enough space to turn and run to the right edge of the opposition D and cross the ball. It found young Oli Adewale at the top of the D, who stopped it and hit it towards goal. It wasn't fast, but it was accurate, and Oli was as surprised as anyone when it hit the back-board and gave Fylde the lead again, 2-1.
Despite more Windermere pressure, Fylde fought to retain their lead and managed to hang on for a deserving and thoroughly satisfying 2-1 win. Alex Fuller was voted the Man of the Match for his outstanding performance in goal.
After almost starting on the Ladies post-match packed teas, the bulk of the team headed back to the local pub the other side of Windermere for pints and an excellent sausage pasta bake. There were even rumours of individuals breaking their Dry January to celebrate the first win of the team since October, and who can blame them. A glorious sunset on the drive home, and a happy set of players.