Flags Final v Hampstead - 17 Mar 2007

While the crowd weren't treated to the display of free scoring, spectacular lacrosse you might expect from these two sides, they were none the less given a tense, thrilling contest which went down to the wire.

Purley weren't quite at full strength, with a couple of players missing through work commitments, but were still quietly confident as they started with the same 12 who had beaten Bath so convincingly last week. The only other team worry was that Dean Searle was originally rostered to work today and would have had to leave by 4pm. While this would normally have been fine, the Senior Flags would start at 3pm to accommodate all the finals on the day, so he'd only make the first half. Fortunately for Purley Dean's boss allowed him the extra time, so thanks to him. And good job too, as having that 4th long stick really makes a difference, and Dean's aggressive defence helped keep the Hampstead offense under pressure, and resulted in more than his fair share of turnovers.

The first three quarters followed pretty much the same pattern. Both sides were guilty of turning over the ball far too easily, which helped keep the score low, and until late in the game no more than a single goal ever separated the sides. Hampstead's game plan seemed to be to dodge one-on-one, but too many times they weren't looking for the pass when the slide came, which allowed Purley to deal relatively easily with this threat for the most part. Purley on the other hand tried to work the openings, but while they moved the ball quickly round the outside, the movement off the ball which had been so key in last week's goal fest was sadly lacking. This made the offense somewhat toothless, and far too often attacks ended with an easy turnover on a dodge into a well positioned defence, or a poor shot from outside.

Purley took the lead 1-0 through Jesse O'Hanley, but after that is was always Hampstead who were in front, only to be pegged back time after time by Purley. Hampstead's first goal came from a defensive mix-up as Purley lost the ball on their own man-up, and failed to register the fact that the penalty was up as the Hampstead man stepped out of the sin bin unmarked, which allowed them to get an easy fast break which Mike Noonan duly converted. Hampstead then took the lead on a Dave Leach fast break. Paul Terry made the initial save, only to see it rebound straight into Dave's path, and with Paul out of position all he had to do was pick the ball up and put it in the empty net. At quarter time it was 1-2 to Hampstead.

In the second quarter Purley did manage to get some periods of sustained possession, but only managed a single goal when Mike Barrett fed Jamie Tasko who was sneaking onto the crease from behind goal. However, they did keep Hampstead out at the other end to bring the score to 2-2 at the half. Hampstead scored early in the second half to restore their lead, but Purley responded swiftly with a goal from Mike Barrett. Hampstead then scored again in transition, which Purley eventually replied to through Jamie Tasko, taking the three quarter score to 4-4.

So, everything to play for in the final quarter. Purley again started with periods of controlled possession, but in contrast to previous quarters they were now starting to move off the ball, and created a couple of good chances before a sweet feed from behind found Mike Barrett with some space and time up top, and Mike stuck the shot in low to give Purley a crucial lead. The Hampstead attack caused Purley a couple of nervous moments before Purley doubled their advantage, this time it was Mike Barrett who fed the ball cross field to Graeme Holland on the left wing, and before the keeper had set himself Graeme had drilled the ball past his left hip. Hampstead then had a period of sustained pressure resulting in a couple of man-ups, but they missed these vital opportunities to get back in the game as the Purley defence held. With Hampstead now having to pressure the ball Purley used the extra space well, and two more goals from Graeme Holland gave Purley a comfortable cushion, and perhaps a rather flattering final score of 8-4.

Purley will be grateful to their defence and keeper for keeping them in the game in the first three quarters, but it was finally good team offense and accurate shooting by Graeme Holland which gave Purley the victory.

Thanks to the men in the stripes, Simon Peach, Adam Crowe, and whoever the third ref and CBO were, Reading for their usual fine job as hosts, and Chris Terry for doing the video.

Goal: Paul Terry
Defence: Andy Booth, Dean Searle and Dave Slaughter
Long-stick midfield: Ian Nesbitt
Midfield: Mike Barrett (2), Dave Cluney, Jesse O'Hanley (1), Luke Smith
Attack: Graeme Holland (3), Matt Payne and Jamie Tasko (2)

Photos by Steve Cluney.