Fed up of playing Basingstoke, our first Upolo game was very welcome, even if it meant a 200 mile round trip to Cheltenham to face Gloucester on a Friday night. What else would we rather be doing? 9 boys congregated on the concourse, with Ross taking my suggestion to pack food to heart and turning up with a whole Thai curry.
The journey there proved to be eventful. Someone rather inconsiderately decided to crash their car, causing a 45 minute delay. In the resulting tailback I almost managed to rear end someone, leaving Conal very unimpressed. Later in the journey I then almost managed to hit a sign, leaving everyone very unimpressed. Nevertheless we arrived only 15 minutes late, thanks to the trusty satnav that my housemate found in the middle of the road on a night out. Lawrence and co. turned up a few minutes later, I think he’d decided that Cheltenham was so nice compared to the pits we normally visit that he’d take the scenic route through town.
Word had obviously got out about our visit and quite a crowd had gathered to watch. Christian strutted out on to poolside and I’m sure I saw at least 4 girls faint. Buoyed by the watching fans, we had a solid warm up and proceeded to get the game underway.
Gloucester started strongly. In a repeat of the last game, I got 2 quick majors early in the first quarter. Pit defence is evidently not my jam. Gloucester bashed in 3 early goals before we could settle. Once we got a hold in the game, we set up well and defended reasonably solidly. Unfortunately we came up against probably the best keeper I’ve ever played against (our own Italian stallion notwithstanding), so despite crafting out a few opportunities the first quarter finished 3-0 to Gloucester.
The first quarters exertions had taken their toll on Sam, who had to go and chunder at this point, leaving us with 8 men for most this quarter. This proved slightly too much for us, and despite our best efforts, conceded another 4. A problem was emerging with the balls having a lack of grip, meaning it was taking a few seconds for us to pick the ball and move it on. This was suiting Gloucesters long game, looking to get their 2/3 best players through one on one with Lawrence early, whereas our more patient passing game was hindered. Their keeper made a few more saves. 7-0 half time.
The third quarter was good. Back up to 9 men, we seemed to tire at a slower rate than Gloucester. Some good attacking play lead to more chances created, but still no goals. I attempted a “signature” backshot, but the keeper was having none of it after realising that I wasn’t Banton, and pulled off a fine save from about 3 metres. They then scored, we set up again and worked Perry through one on one. After taking several seconds to get to grip with the ball (pun intended) he emphatically put one past the keeper. Get in. We attacked again, with Lawrence encouraging from the back. Their keeper picked up a loose ball, looked up and whacked one over Lawrence who was a few yards off his line. What a pillock. 9-1 end of third quarter.
A few notable incidents occurred in the final quarter. Conal took umbrage to a stray elbow and let his feelings known with an elbow or two of his own. Both players received majors for their troubles. In what I suspect is an SUWPC first, we scored a goal from a man up situation. We went a man up, set up properly, moved the ball around, the ball came out to myself and I thumped it in to the top left. Gloucester may have then scored a few more but it was hollow in comparison to what we’d achieved. Lawrence was keen to atone for his earlier misdemeanour and pulled off an incredible double save from a Gloucester attack. Tom was thwarted a few times by their keeper for good measure. Final score 12-2 to Gloucester.
After nearly forgetting to get a match photo again, fearing the wrath of our webmaster, we gathered for a cheeky post game picture (minus Ross who’d decided to hit Cheltenham for a mad one). Here we discovered an absolute treasure trove of books for sale, featuring bangers such as “Getting Rid of Matthew” and “The Subtle Knife”. In another SUWPC first, we decided that no one really wanted McDonald’s so we’d just drive straight home. So disappointing. Phil and Conal took full advantage of this and proceeded to swap GAPYAH stories during the drive home, during which I managed to avoid hitting anything (which was more than Lawrence who managed to knock his bumper off).
There were many positives to take from the game. In terms of the polo played, it was easily the best performance of this year. On another day (against another keeper) we’d have probably knocked a few more in. We looked pretty solid whenever Gloucester attempted to play it, but still struggled a bit with the pace and intensity whenever it went long. There’s some work to be done in training on this. Nice one boys!