Saturday 19th October 2019, CACSSA –
Despite a big grey cloud of doubt, caused by the original hosts’ pitch being waterlogged beyond playable conditions, Cheltenham took the reigns and hosted Bristol Bombers in the great M5 derby we’ve all been waiting for. The game would not only prove critical to the Cotswolds League 1 campaign for both clubs, but would also put the victor one step closer to the mantle of “Best in the West”.
Both teams had taken a hit due to the last-minute change, with Bombers missing a captain and Cheltenham missing a big threat in the form of Elliot May, who faced a scheduling conflict due to training for his charity boxing match – get your tickets here. Elsewhere on the pitch, Elliot Thorp and Yuriy Syiek made their official Cheltenham debuts.
It was clear from the face-off that Cheltenham had the upper hand at the centre spot, with Pete Smith winning the majority of faces, and finding the the swift legged Gary Wood on most occasions.
Early on in the game, Cheltenham dominated possession-wise, with Bombers making some errors which resulted in a number of man-down situations, which Cheltenham failed to capitalise on. Eventually, Cheltenham found the net – James Adamson opened the scoring having controlled a pass from Conor Dockery before beating his man, putting him right on target for a strong shot to goal. The early lead was good for Cheltenham’s motivation, but was soon stifled by an equaliser from Bombers, who had been until that point, stifled by Cheltenham’s solid defence of Joe Perkins, Matt Parkes and Rhys Topping, and on-form keeper in James Lloyd. The quarter ended 1-1 but both teams knew there was a big game ahead of them.
The second quarter saw a slight change in pace for Cheltenham, who got a bit more into their stride, controlling the ball in attack, though Bombers were still pushing back only to met by a consistent Cheltenham back line. Dockery added to his first quarter assist quite early on with a face dodge from GLE to crease, stepping past his defender and simply placing the ball in the top corner. Adamson retaliated later after Parkes transitioned the ball up the pitch, drawing a defender and finding the free option for an assist. Cheltenham kept a clean sheet for the quarter, which ended the half at 3-1.
Although leading at the break, Cheltenham were far from comfortable and, since both teams were looking strong in defence, attackers were looking for new ways to score. The game continued at very much the same pace as we had been seeing for much of the first half, with shots being blocked at both ends and possession rarely staying with one team long enough for anyone to capitalise. Cheltenham’s one goal for the third quarter came from Adam Green, who received a precise assist to crease from James Adamson, which did enough to keep Cheltenham’s head above water when Bristol added a second goal to their tally.
At the break, Bristol were quite audibly getting hyped up to fight back. Passions were peaking, and we saw a scrappy fourth quarter, which allowed newcomers Thorp and Syiek to show their worth, as they fought for and collected ground balls. Bristol scored early on, bringing the scores ever closer – one mistake and the game was a tie. Thankfully, Adamson managed to face dodge passed his man mid-quarter, faking a pass to a fellow attacker to allow him the opportunity to score his third of the day. Bristol, ever the contenders, fought back and got another goal, bringing the score to 5-4. The game ended and both teams, though only one goal apart, were divided – one defeated, one victorious.
A game played in high spirits, and very much in the ethos of “getting the game on”. Although not a technical masterclass, some excellent defensive displays and intense gameplay meant the game was brilliant to be a part of and spectate, with one Bomber even commenting that Cheltenham had “reminded me that Lacrosse can be fun” – you’re welcome, Anonymous Bristolian.
5-4 to Cheltenham – another win and a big step towards being named Cotswold League 1 Champions.
James Adamson – 3
Conor Dockery – 1
Adam Green – 1
Man of the Match – James Lloyd
Some absolutely tremendous saves, blocking shots by the dozen, as well as some calm, controlled clearances meant Cheltenham never fell behind. Massive credit to the back line, Adamson (top scorer), and the debutants.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Max Biddlestone picked up Lacrosse at University and played for Maidstone before joining Cheltenham in 2017. Max is currently the Club Chair, and plays attack.