Saturday 31st August 2019, Nuneaton Academy Sports Centre –
With the 2019/20 season just around the corner, Cheltenham Men’s team travelled to Nuneaton for their final pre-season friendly of 2019.
Cheltenham’s line-up was strong, with familiar faces strengthened by new players making their Cougars debuts – Pete Stefaniak stepped in goal, Guy Oldring and Matt Parkes started in defence, and Alex Bray made his debut as midfielder – even having a stab at some face-offs.
Nuneaton looked good, and bolstered their team with guests from other clubs, a true sign of the strength of the new Midlands Leagues, which are bringing a breath of fresh air to Lacrosse in the middle of the country.
The whistle went in the 1st quarter and Cheltenham quickly took advantage of a winning face-off from Conor Dockery, which was received by Gary Wood and taken into attack, where Cheltenham settled, picking decent shots and chasing them up until a ripe opportunity presented itself and James Adamson dodged on his defender and fired Cheltenham into an early lead with a fine finish. Cheltenham maintained control and Adamson identified another opportunity, scoring a second goal.
Nuneaton’s brief attempts in offense were shut out by defensive trio Tom Harris, Guy Oldring and Matt Parkes, who were supported by Simon Benyon in the LSM position. Henceforth, Cheltenham dominated the quarter and, after some brief defending and a transition, Gary Wood scored a brace to give the visitors a 4-goal cushion going into the second quarter.
Cheltenham really came into their own in the second quarter and captain David Lennox opened the flood gates, scoring soon after the whistle blew with Adamson scoring his third shortly after. Max Biddlestone and Elliot May scored two each, whilst Simon Benyon grabbed a goal with a trademark long pole goal.
Nuneaton must have felt deflated by the large (11) goal deficit, combined with struggling to get possession of the ball, and were surely delighted to hear the whistle blow for half time.
In the third quarter, Nuneaton upped their game and made it difficult for Cheltenham. The hosts got their first of the day by breaking down the middle and beating the Cheltenham keeper. Cheltenham, not concerned by Nuneaton’s new energy, continued their offensive drive, awarding their effort with two goals from Elliot May, delivered with his textbook flurry of dodges.
In the fourth quarter, the Cheltenham defence faced new pressure as the Nuneaton attack pushed to finish the game strong. A Nuneaton attacker grabbed two goals in quick succession, giving Nuneaton the motivation to keeping pushing back.
After some heated defensive ground balls, resulting in a sending off due to a controversial loose ball push which spectator VAR contested was “a bad call”, Cheltenham got back in control of the ball and Adamson scored his fourth of the day with a nice finish, beating the Nuneaton keeper. The dominance saw the defence wanting to get involved with some good runs by the poles. This was followed by Dockery scoring a sharp bounce shot, beating Nuneaton’s keeper to the top right corner.
Nuneaton were not giving in and scored another, giving their attackman his third of the day.
Cheltenham saw the game to the end and took the opportunity to work on possession and movement, Wood completed his hattrick in the dying moments of the game and Cheltenham finished the match winning 16-4.
It was a great end to a brilliant summer for Cheltenham, and it was great to see Nuneaton in action. A strong effort from the entire team leaves Cheltenham with a positive outlook on the season ahead.
Final score: Cheltenham 16-4 Nuneaton
James Adamson – 4
Elliot May – 4
Gary Wood – 3
Max Biddlestone – 2
David Lennox – 1
Conor Dockery – 1
Simon Benyon – 1
Men of the Match – Gary Wood and Guy Oldring
Despite many of the team getting nominated, only two men received the game honours. Gary delivered some excellent transition play and three goals and some assists too. Guy’s first game with Cheltenham showed his influence in defence, as he coordinated a tight ship and even helped in driving the ball into the offensive half later in the game.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Goalkeeper James Lloyd joined Cheltenham in 2016. Along with Cheltenham, honours are West 2 league winners, Minor flag winners and Cotswold 2 league winners. Also won the Home internationals with Wales in 2019.