Hockey Championships 2011

Earlier this year, the RAF Coningsby Hockey Team took part in the Royal Air Force Inter-Station Championships.  Although they didn’t bring home the trophy, they did work hard, played some great hockey and did themselves proud.

Day 1: First Match

RAF Coningsby 1 RAF Wittering 0.

Coningsby’s tournament began with a tough opening fixture against Eastern counties powerhouse and local rivals RAF Wittering. In Wittering’s previous guise as Joint Force Harrier they had reached the last four finals (winning three) so we knew it was going to take a massive effort to take a result from the game. As expected Wittering came out of the blocks with fire in their bellies – looking to take victory and bragging rights from a team containing no less then five JFH alumni. Coningsby however were more than equals. LAC Alex Gregory and LAC Phil Taylor at centre back quickly forming a formidable defensive line, whilst Cpl Debs Bamford and Chf Tech Si Price stifled their wingers. Frustration quickly set in the Wittering ranks and the tight controlled Coningsby formation began carving out chances for the forwards. A 2nd half short corner broke the deadlock – after the initial shot from Cpl Will Hall was blocked, Chf Tech Dan Stones gratefully pounced on the rebound slotting it into the bottom centre of the goal. With fresh determination Wittering pushed on and Coningsby’s task was made all the harder when Phil Taylor was inexplicably yellow carded for an innocuous 50/50 challenge. he trudged from the field accompanied by confused looks from both sets of players. Wittering began firing ball after ball into the Coningsby ‘D’, but Coningsby’s defence held firm; a big player for Coningsby was Keeper SAC Mark Johnstone who shut out his former team mates repeatedly, including a premier level save in the last minute when Wittering forward Fl Lt Dan Sagrott fired a low shot with venom through the defensive crowd. ‘Johno’ seeing it late, managed to turn it away to the side with his leg pad. The final whistle blew and Coningsby claimed a fantastic victory against a very strong Wittering side.

Second Match: RAF Coningsby 1 RAF Brize Norton 3.

Luck seemed to have deserted Coningsby when the fixtures were drawn. In their 2nd game of the day was they faced current RAF champions, Brize Norton, who were strong favourites to retain their title…… Tired legs took to the field but it became immediately apparent that the Brize forward line was going to cause problems. Alex Gregory threw himself in front of everything that the Brize forward line could hit him with, catching the 1st of multiple knocks to his knee. Despite a resolute defensive display Brize’s Combined Services forward Cpl Scott Beech proved too much and when he drew a short corner from the Coningsby defence he made no mistake firing a powerful drag flick into the roof of the net. Before half time Cpl Beech set upon a mazy run from the halfway line, bypassing multiple players before firing in to the goal from a seemingly impossible angle at the by-line for a 2-0 half time lead.

The 2nd half saw a Coningsby fightback, the midfield playing some excellent fast flowing hockey, opening up the Brize defence again and again; a Daz Williams low shot was the most noteworthy of the chances. For the first time Brize Norton looked rattled and when Daz Williams poked home a deflected short corner to make it 2-1 the tide seemed to have turned. Alex Gregory’s knee launched yet another kamikaze lunge in front of the ball for his 2nd injury of the day and time was ticking down with Brize seemingly happy to hold on. However, Cpl Beech once again found himself with the ball inside the ‘D’, another short corner drawn followed by a low flick past the Coningsby keeper made it 3-1 and game over for the team in Orange.

Third Match – RAF Coningsby 3 RAF Benson/Odiham 2

With two games down against supposedly the two toughest opponents, the final game of the day saw eleven pairs of tired legs taking to the field to play Benson/Odiham. From the push back it became apparent that Benson was there for a game, battering a path through the centre and putting pressure on Coningsby’s defence. The umpire for the Coningsby half seemed to be pulling short corners from thin air and frustration was setting in but again the stoic Coningsby defence refused to yield. Halfway through the first half a well worked short corner saw Benson/Odiham break through. The striker feinted to his left, dragged the ball to his right and slotted a neat shot into the bottom of the goal. Coningsby were 1-0 down and Benson deserved their lead. The score seemed to galvanize the Coningsby players’ aching joints and for the first time in the game we started to assert our authority; it was Daz Williams tireless running that once again got the team back in it. Arriving from nowhere at the back post and diverting a driving shot into the net 1-1! Benson were never out of the game though and another short corner was driven low to the right hand post hitting a defender on the foot and bouncing around the outside of the post. Coningsby hearts sank as the umpire signalled a penalty flick. The striker made no mistake and Benson retook their lead.

The 2nd half began and Coningsby were fastest out of the blocks, pinning the Helicopter boys and girls into their own half. The pressure told when Cpl Ryan Casson forced an error and won himself a penalty flick. ‘I’ve never missed a flick’ were his words as he took the ball from usual taker, Will Hall. Good to his word he fired high and the net rippled. 2-2. By now Coningsby were in ascendancy. Benson/Odiham mounted a few attacks but the four Coningsby defenders were imperious. With time ticking away a draw was not an option if we wanted to keep hopes of the title alive and the hockey gods delivered. A shot was blocked and the umpire called another penalty flick! Will Hall had no discussions this time and stepped up himself firing his flick high centre scoring with ease. 3-2 and everything to play for on the final day.

Day 2: RAF Coningsby 2 RAF Halton/High Wycombe 3.

Coningsby’s final game came against hosts RAF Halton & High Wycombe. Even though we had suffered only one defeat on the first day, due to Wittering and Brize Norton’s high scoring in other matches the only way we could win the title was with a 10+ goal difference win AND hope Wittering beat the unstoppable Brize Norton by one goal in the final match of the tournament. The improbable transformed into the impossible within the 1st minute when a shot heading high and wide somehow deflected off a defender’s stick and looped over the helpless Johnstone in goal. 1-0 down with cries of ‘only 11 more needed’ from sidelines. Shell shocked but determined Coningsby began to press their opponents but 15 minutes in disaster struck again. A Halton short corner was blocked and the resultant ball dropped right onto an attacking stick a yard from the goal line, Coningsby were 2-0 down. Now it was a case of saving the match, not saving the tournament. A rousing 2nd half team talk resulted in some of the strongest hockey of the entire two days, Coningsby refusing to lie down, pushing forward and pressing the attack from the outset. Daz Williams was unlucky not to score after stopping a glorious cross from Phil Taylor, and firing at goal, the keeper pulling off a great save to deny him. With pressure mounting it was only a matter of time before Halton’s resolute defence was breached and Ryan Casson smashed home from just inside the ‘D’. ‘Attack, attack, attack’ was the tactic now and Coningsby were piling on the pressure, but as happens so often, a break from Halton resulted in yet another goal from seemingly nothing. For all the graft and effort of the players in Orange we still found ourselves 3-1 down with time running out. By now defensive rock Phil Taylor was making regular bounding runs forward, trying to open up the defence and pull off a stunning comeback. It was with one of these runs he found himself with the ball in the ‘D’ and he made no mistake firing home for 3-2. Time was ticking and two days of hockey were taking its toll, the fresher legs of Halton started to get back into the game once more, With LAC Gregory taking a big hit to the back of his leg…the ball realizing it had struck the ‘wrong’ part of his leg it rebounded up and deflected off his injured knee once more. The final whistle was not far away and Halton took the match. Coningsby worked hard, played some great hockey and although they didn’t bring home the trophy they did themselves proud… roll on next year!

If anyone is interested in being part of the Coningsby Hockey Club then please don’t hesitate to give one of the committee members a call. We cater for players of all ranges of skill from RAF representative to complete beginner and our training sessions take place at RAF Cranwell on Thursday evenings (meet at 1600hrs @ Coningsby Gym). We are also looking to tour this autumn with a trip to the Akritori 7’s tournament in October.

OIC – Sgt Stu Clarke (3Sqn AV Desk) x 6469

Club Captain – SAC Mark ‘Johno’ Johnstone (Hyd Bay) x7369

Vice Captain – Cpl Will Hall (Fire Section) x7445

Club Secretary – Cpl Debs Bamford (MSC) x8066

By SAC Adam Thompson.