For those with a fondness for 4th XI memorabilia, you will recall saga’s around this match in the last couple of seasons. Last year’s narrow victory was secured by Klug – seconds after he’d accidentally despatched one of the Thetford players to A&E. The year before Reid (J) was on fire and was the nadir of Blake’s hockeying career. The common themes to those games were the fact that the 4th XI were – unusually – playing on the main Ipswich School Sports Centre pitch (they are normally banished to the far out of sight one) and that IES struggled to cope with Thetford’s Talisman – bandana wearing Rees.
As IES gathered in a socially distanced manner the team discovered that only one theme completed its hattrick – and thankfully it was the choice of pitch – the bandana was nowhere to be seen.
On to less prosaic issues – the squad. Black, Austin and Simpson were promoted and Scarff, Thornton and Meades were unavailable. The Maestro Elsom worked hard on the free transfer and loan market all week and with a bit of help from his friend he secured the services of O’Brien, Conway, Pineo and Gaffer – all of whom were making their 4th XI debuts. The Capitan and Gaffer played in the same Ipswich team in Prem B prior to the birth of most of the 4th XIs match day squad – but that is another story that isnt really relevant to anything much.
And – the Capitan – with his usual style – took positional advice from Elsom and did the opposite. He also asked Conway where he normally played – was told he was a defender so decided to play him at centre forward. This may have been a career defining master-stroke for Conway cos he revelled in the opportunity.
And the match started – in the dry – which with Storm Alex around was a miracle. O and other useless stat – this was the first 4th XI match in the Capitan’s time in charge where there wasn’t an S in the team – no Scarff, Sebborn, Simpson, Sneddon or Spurling. The rest of the squad being the normal bunch of Elsom, Murray, Page, Ramsey, Vince, Whiting and Williams (*2).
The opening exchanges were cagey with IES having most of the ball – including a 17 pass move from the initial push back. Eventually Pineo smote home a penalty corner. Then he conceded one and after an initial decent save Thetford equalised on the re-bound. The Maestro then brought himself on and following a sublime bit of skill from Whiting (he missed the ball but it wrong footed the whole Thetford team), Elsom buried a sitter and IES entered the half time break 2-1 up.
The Capitan observed that keeping the ball might be helpful and that when 2-1 up the next goal is often crucial. So IES actually did what was asked and scored the next goal. Whiting made a 40 yard run – without the ball – for the first time since the 80s – and arrived at the top of the D in time to stop a pass from a flowing move down the right involving Conway, Vince and Ramsey. Whiting found he had about 3 hours to shoot and took about 2.5 of them but lo he buried it from the top of the D and turned to pass out with exhaustion prior to celebrating. Plenty of penalty corners were won and it is debatable as to who led the worse routine – Pineo or Elsom. But with about ten minutes to go the IES defence started to get nervous because Murray hadn’t yet scored his obligatory own-goal but Page, O’Brien and Williams (1+2)) helped him out and then Ramsey capped a fine performance with his first 4th XI goal. Somewhere in the 2nd half, Gaffer picked up a green card for the sort of tackle he tended to get away with 20 years ago – probably cos green cards didn’t exist back then.
So 4-1 it finished and IES Mens 4th XI secured their first league win of the season and the men’s club first league win against opposing clubs this season. Amazingly IES have now reached the heights of 7th place in Division 4NE and have the delights of Dereham away next week – a Dereham side sitting in 10th place but a team that always performs strongly at home on their slowish pitch – the site of which – last season included Sneddon’s back ‘pass’, Williams’ whacked knee and – has it been mentioned before (?) – Murray’s best ever own goal.
A 1.30 start awaits whatever team is put out – your reporter confidently predicts a different squad and one with an S in.
Finally, man of the match from Thetford game. All 4 debutants played well – but they were all disqualified for being debutants. Which doesn’t leave many. Vince and Murray had their best games of the season (so far), Whiting continues to play well, Williams (jnr) and Page were solid again – the Maestro and the Capitan are building into the season and can be expected to play well at some point. So the winner is Ramsey – he ran well, linked play neatly, did plenty of good runs down the right and capped a fine performance with a goal – and it was his – and one or two others in the squad – first league victory in nearly 2 years of week in week out hockey.