Saturday 12th October 2019, CACSSA –
After a two-week hiatus, Cheltenham kitted up for their first home game of the season, vying for a win against East Grinstead (EG), who had elected to drop down to SEMLA Division 2 after a rough season and having lost a number of their key players. The Cougars were looking to bounce back after an away defeat against Camden Capybaras.
Cheltenham wielded their home-team advantage, fielding a strong 15 man side against EG’s 12. James Lloyd returned from a long injury spell and Joe Perkins and Conor Dockery made their first appearances of the season, with latter having just returned from the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, where he had represented Ireland.
The first quarter began with an EG attack, looking to unlock the stubborn Cheltenham defence. Their early offence was swiftly shut out by the defensive trio of Guy Oldring, Tom Harris and Ollie Dove. Cheltenham soon got the ball into the EG half and, after some confusion around the over and back ball, Max Biddlestone collected a ground ball and delivered a long feed to Dockery who stepped and beat the keeper to give Cheltenham the early lead. The hosts soon doubled their lead after James Adamson scored a great outside shot after breaking free with a fine dodge to beat his man. EG fought back with a string of intense offences, eventually getting 1 past the Cheltenham keeper, ending the first quarter 2-1.
In the second quarter, Cheltenham settled the ball down and made the older EG team do running. After a feed to a cutting Alex Bray didn’t quite go to plan, due to some efficient sliding, Biddlestone collected the loose ball for an easily scored shot on goal. Cheltenham showed no sign of stopping when David Lennox dodged from behind the goal to set up Dockery’s second goal of the day, a rapid bounce shot hitting the top corner. Despite temporarily losing a man to a penalty, Cheltenham fought off a tough EG attack, with Lloyd making a great save, passing to to Dove who then passed across to Topping who ran the ball up the pitch, drew a man and thus assisted Biddlestone’s second of the game, taking the score to 5-1. EG, down but not yet out, fought back to get a second, but shortly afterwards Cheltenham scored again with Lennox doding from X, this time finding Gary Wood who caught the ball mid-air for an alley-oop style goal. Just before the break, EG scored their third of day, ending the half at 6-3.
Cheltenham’s strong offence came with no small thanks to the hard work from Midfield and Defence, and the gallant displays from face off specialist Pete Smith, Gary Wood and LSM Rhys Topping giving Cheltenham the win the majority of faces.
EG’s half-time talk clearly had a strong impact, with two goals in quick succession bringing the score closer, but this was soon quashed by a fine drive to goal by Tom Blunsden. Cheltenham then took advantage of a frustrated East Grinstead with Adamson receiving another fast break pass to fire Cheltenham’s 8th goal and his second goal of the game. The third quarter was one spent mostly fighting for the ball as the game got ever-more scrappy, but Cheltenham felt the hot breath of a former-premiership team breathing down them as the third quarter ended 8-5.
The fourth quarter was EG’s to win as EG found an opening and shot at Lloyd which rebounded outside for their attacker to flick it into the net. They then scored a second deflection and were straight back into the game. Cheltenham’s captain called an important time out to settle the team and give the resilient defence a rest from EGs waves of attack. Things settled down but the fight wasn’t yet done as Cheltenham has an uneasy 1 goal lead with five minutes to go. However, after a great drive from Tom Blunsden, Biddlestone collected a ground ball, shot around his man and found a bottom corner, gifting Cheltenham some comfort in the dying embers of a brilliant game.
The whistle finally blew, confirming that Cheltenham has won their first game at home and their first win in SEMLA Division 2 of the season. Cheltenham 9-7 East Grinstead.
Max Biddlestone – 3
James Adamson – 2
Conor Dockery – 2
Tom Blunsden – 1
Gary Wood – 1
Man of the Match – Gary Wood
Tireless displays transitioning, defending and recovering ground balls as well as an early contender for goal of the season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – 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.