Last weeks 2nd half performance is exactly what we should be thinking about going into our game against top of league, Bournville. Nothing to fear if we take inspiration from Ben’s magnificent penalty save, the persistent and effective defensive work of our backs - Tony, Tom and John, and the intensity with which our forwards and midfield pressed to turnover the ball in the opposition half so regularly.
Building on these qualities of defense and pressing, here’s what I think we can do better:
One. Changing angle of attack. It’s a reason why we switch from right to left. Simply put, we didn’t use left at all last week because we too often do not think about where the ball could and should be going! If the opposition have time to get 4 or 5 defenders between the right hand touchline (or corner) and the goal, who are facing us, who have sticks to the ground, who have placed their feet in position, and know what we are trying to do, we are stuck, knotted up and frankly going nowhere - few results come from it and it’s not the percentage play!!! The ball must be transferred because it gets defenders turning, and when defenders are turning, working out where they need to reposition themselves, trying to get between ball and goal, they are vulnerable. Simple as. That’s why we transfer not for pretty patterns or playing pleasure but because it unlocks defenses more effectively than our individual skill, every time. So let’s vary it please. Yes, let’s drive the line, to backline, make threat known, win shorts. Excellent. Let’s try a ball inside and then out again to hit the backline. OK, it works. Defenders now thinking twice. Then a ball back to Home quickly, purposefully, to then transfer across to left side - then make run to the back post for the play that will follow. Doing this at any early opportunity from outside the 25, inside the 25, at the baseline makes it even more effective because the opposition don’t know what our next angle of attack will be in the last third, they will struggle to contain us. So let’s constantly try to move ball across pitch as well as forward, changing angle of attack, keeping defenders thinking and worrying that this time they really don’t know where it’s going?!? Long one that. But most important.
Two. Penalty corners. We had 8. 8!! (Eight). None scored. Nuf said. We’re working on it Tuesday night and pre-game. Plan. Execute. Repeat.
Three. Transition is the passage of play between winning the ball and setting up attack. Composure is important, as we are all comfortable on the ball and we can all retain possession if we keep ball on an open stick with a view to the easy push pass. So when ball is turned over to us, make ourselves available quickly to whoever has it, whether it’s been won in the press, tackle, free hit or sideline. Make it super easy for ball carrier. With two short and close passes we will find space and have shape to go forward. Ball carrier stay calm, short pass, move to receive again... not such a difficult game.
Effective long passes, satisfying runs at a turning defence, clever touches, 3D skills and flicks are only part of the game. Let’s make them count if and when we use them because they are surprising!
Keep our hockey simple and easy; then catch Bournville out with a skill or move executed at pace, with precision, with acceleration or change of direction, which leaves them wondering where the heck it came from.
With brilliant basics it only takes moments of magic to win.
Enjoy the game.