Most league games take place on a Saturday afternoon, the occasional one starts on a morning and when weather intervenes some are rearranged for a Sunday afternoon. So it was a bit of a novelty to be asked to umpire a rearranged league game on a Tuesday evening.
The ladies 2s rearranged game with Harrogate ladies 2s was a proper test for the floodlights at the Adel astro, having recently passed the North league requirements. However, you can have the best floodlights in the world and it wont make much difference if a thick fog descends whereby you umpire the game from the centre forward spot just to be able to see the ball. On nights like this you can see why Adel have a nice new fluorescent luminous orange strip which clearly stood out from the blue shirts of the opposition. After a lengthy debate over which colour ball to use (white quickly discounted, a plea for yellow rejected by the Harrogate keeper and then a trial with both pink and orange – at one stage it looked like the game was going to begin with 3 balls which is no doubt one of Sam or Ben’s novelty training sessions…).
With a squad of 16 Adel were a pleasant mix of youth and experience whilst Harrogate were predominantly a team of experienced players. Thanks to the use of the radio headsets, my fellow umpire Jim, was able to clearly tell me that I had missed a foot from an Adel player in the D and this set the scene for the remainder of the half where visible communication with each other was impossible but verbal communication was essential to help the game progress smoothly.
With a decent crowd for a cold, miserable Tuesday evening it was good to see the opposition also bring along a healthy number of supporters, perhaps there is a role for midweek hockey after all.
Fifteen minutes in and Adel won their first corner. Time to unleash the number one corner routine with a smart push out from Barson, stopped at the top by Tina, options to the left and right but Tina spotted a gap at the near post and the bobbling direct strike must have been hard to pick up in the Adel fog by keeper and defender. Harrogate came back strongly and soon equalised with a looping deflection that deceived keeper Abby and the interval arrived with the game evenly poised. A competitive first half with the Adel defence showing composure and confidence on the ball, Lindsay, Hannah and Barson passing it around the back nicely and working the ball down the wide areas where the two Sophie’s on the left and Maddy or Rosie on the right carried possession forward. In the middle Jess, Cesca, Robyn, Sandra and Twedds were having their usual battles and contests and coming out on top to keep up the pressure.
The second half continued where the first had left off with both teams winning but failing to convert from a number of short corners. Harrogate then broke the deadlock with a surprise deflection that looped past Abbie and it was now all to play for with Adel having to dig deep, rotate players to keep up the pressure on the opposition but more importantly get some shots on goal to get back into the game. The deserved equaliser came after good work down the left by Tina who showed she can hit a ball cleanly after all with a powerful cross that was expertly deflected into the net by Rosie. Game on – all to play for and both teams pushed hard for a winning goal. With the game heading towards a conclusion, Adel worked the ball well down the right and Sophie’s shot was blocked by a Harrogate player’s body leading to another short corner chance for Adel. With number one striker on the bench, time running out and an anticipating crowd eager to see a Tuesday night Adel victory, skipper Sandra took responsibility and hammered home a thunderbolt of a direct strike to take a 3-2 lead with minutes remaining. Harrogate cheered on by their coach and enthusiastic band of supporters came back once again but the Adel defence was strong and determined and saw out the final few minutes comfortably.
A great game of hockey, played in great spirit by both teams (no cards of any colour to either side) suggesting that midweek evening hockey might have a future. Thanks to Harrogate for travelling to Adel on a midweek evening this time of the year when everyone could easily have been doing something else, thanks to the hardy souls who braved the cold and miserable weather.