Senior Flags Final 2003-2004
Purley vs Hillcroft - Reading, 20th March 2004
It was a wet, cold and windy at Reading for the Senior Flags final, which was doubly bad news for the players. Not only was it unpleasant to play in, but also the customary finals atmosphere was missing as the weather kept the normally large crowd away, and only the die-hard fans braved the sidelines.
Purley's opponents Hillcroft have had a resurgence this season, and showed they could tangle with the big boys in a nail biting 12-11 win over Hampstead in the semi-final, and a narrow 5-7 defeat to Purley in their previous encounter. But Purley were looking for their fifth Flags title in a row, so if Hillcroft wanted to lift the trophy they'd have to pull out all the stops.
It was a nervy first couple of minutes, with possessions evenly shared. Hillcroft didn't help themselves, turning over the ball too often as they tried to force the play. On the other hand, Purley were more deliberate, but they failed to make the final shot tell until 5 minutes in when Tim Richmond drove on goal and put a bullet in the top right hand corner. From the ensuing face-off Purley gained possession in their defensive end, moved the ball down the sideline, round the back of goal to Tim Richmond, who fed Chris Spence cutting towards goal, and Chris slotted home for 2-0. As the quarter continued Purley began to dominate the possession, and three more goals from Tim Richmond, and one for Mike Barrett took the quarter time score to 6-0 to Purley.
Hillcroft really needed to reduce that deficit early in the next quarter, but it was Purley who increased their lead, first through a strong drive on goal by Tim Richmond, then Dave McCulloch fed Jamie Tasko for a trademark crease goal under pressure. Hillcroft then managed to get their name on the score sheet, with a goal against an uncharacteristically disorganised Purley man-down defence, and rapidly got another with a tight-angled shot. Having steadied the ship, Hillcroft then let themselves down with some undisciplined play as first one, then another player were sin-binned for a minute - and with a 6-on-4 offence it was only a matter of time for Purley to find an opening, and Tim Richmond added to his growing tally. Hillcroft replied quickly with a well-taken individual goal - a dodge from level with the goal, and dive and shot just outside the crease. But again they gave Purley an easy goal, this time when their midfield were slow to react to losing the ball over the sideline. The Purley defence weren't however, as Dave Slaughter quickly took the ball, found Andy Booth charging down the middle of the field to make a 4-on-3 break, and the Purley attack clinically moved the ball round to find an open Jamie Tasko, who slotted the ball round the keeper. The final goal of the quarter came when Dave McCulloch slipped through two defenders, drew another three, and managed to get the shot in. The keeper saved, but couldn't hold onto the ball. With no Hillcroft defence left to cover, Jamie Tasko was free to scoop up the loose ball to score. Shame that doesn't count as an assist for Dave - but that's the way stats go.
Given that the Purley defence have given up a maximum of 7 goals in League and Flags matches this season, the half-time score of 11-3 meant the contest was effectively over. However Hillcroft never gave up, and managed to make it a more even second half. In the next quarter all the goals came in the first five minutes - Purley got two in transition play, and Hillcroft replied with one. Hillcroft scored first in the final quarter, and then Purley keeper Paul Terry decided to go on a run up field with the ball. As he got to the Hillcroft end he drew 2 defenders, and not unexpectedly got nailed. However he did manage to get the pass off first, and with the cover drawn the Purley attack are masters at finding the open man, on this occasion it was Matt Payne, who buried the ball in the net. Two more goals for Purley took the final score to 16-5.
As always, it was a good all-round team performance from Purley, but special mention must go to "The Thunder from Down Under", Tim Richmond, who was on fire with his 7 goals and 1 assist.
Our thanks go to the Refs (Simon Peach, Jon Harrop and Rob Collinge), to Reading LC for hosting the finals, to anyone who braved the sidelines on such an awful day, and especial thanks to Nicki Holland for shooting the video.
Goal: Paul Terry
Defence: Andy Booth, Dave Slaughter and Ted Whitehouse
Long-stick midfield: Denham Pope and Dean Searle
Midfield: Mike Barrett (2 goals, 1 assist), Graeme Holland (1 assist), Matt Payne (2 goals, 1 assist) and Chris Spence (1 goal, 1 assist)
Attack: Dave McCulloch (2 assists), Tim Richmond (7 goals, 1 assist) and Jamie Tasko (4 goals, 2 assists)