Tuesday 20 May 2008

Otter 1 v Avondale 1 (London Premiership 17 April 2008)

From The South London Correspondent:

Otter I 10 – Avondale I 15 (London League, 17 April 2008)

The University pool at Mallet Street always has a quiet bustle about it, a sense of activity. The Penguin ladies seemed reluctant to cede the water to the Avondale players and there were people on both sides of the pool, busy with setting up this season opener for these two quality sides. I missed this fixture last season, being inside a Burka somewhere in Afghanistan, but from the snatches of conversation I had overheard, Otter won the contest convincingly from the start. Their recent haul of Kiwis and usual meticulous preparation easily overcame the irrepressible joie-de-vivre of Avondale.

Avondale seem to coalesce at away fixtures rather than arrive, they happily ‘bump into one another’ in pool receptions across London and chat as if unmindful of the contest that will precede their later refreshments. Last year, they got "stuffed" by all accounts, but they seemed just as relaxed as ever as I passed them on my way through the reception tonight.

Both teams seemed to have close to a full squad in attendance, although I noticed that Avondale’s 007 was absent, one rumour had it that Otter could not get extra insurance cover for their goalposts at short notice, but I suspected a woman’s hand!

The referee used the simple and effective ruse of starting both sets of players at the two meter mark for the drop to remove the advantage of the pool side… now why didn’t I think of that! Avondale were clearly better organised than last year with the influential Mark Bind at the centre of their pre-game chat, and it showed from the outset. Otter won the swim and looked as well drilled and sharp as ever with clean passing around the arc. For a change Avondale looked solid in defence. They have always had good defenders, one or two or them exceptionally so, but they seemed ‘tighter’ tonight.

Otter sometimes over elaborate. I guess if you have a coach with a clipboard you need to have something to show for it, and they have a couple of players with outstanding shots who found the goal corners twice in the first quarter, but they were being kept out of the pit and when the ball did come in the Avondale defence was quick to jump back and reclaim the ball. It was a tight and absorbing quarter which Avondale ended up winning 3 -2. At this point I must mention Avondale’s “wild card”. I heard someone refer to “The Beast from the East” whilst they were engaged in their usual animated banter on the pool side before the game, this surely is Konrad. It was my first glimpse of this ex Hungarian national player, and whilst he’s some way from his youthful best you will go a long way to see a more entertaining player in this league. He opened with what I gather is a trademark pull past a defensive player on the right wing, but the referee saw some foul play and gave Otter the ball. My Hungarian is a little rusty, but it would seem that the referee knows enough to suggest that he was unimpressed with Konrad’s suggestion as to his credentials. Konrads’s second intervention was a successful version of the first, this time he rounded the defender who for some inexplicable reason seemed powerless to interfere, and whilst the rest of us, including their very competent keeper were either looking somewhere else or blinking, somehow contrived to have the ball hit the back of the net.

By way of a small digression, I am told that the Hungarian language has a very wide selection of swear words and phrases. My Internet research on this point would tend to confirm this as it revealed a substantial choice, from which my persona favourite (translated) is : “I'll tear your head off and vomit into your lung”.

The game remained tight in the second quarter. Avondale’s seasoned keeper failed to get out of the way of several good shots and at the other end Wayne “The Sniper” Jacobs was holding the defence’s attention, but was not converting at his accustomed rate. Otter’s sharp shooters managed to hit the inside wood and top corner with impressive shooting, but the Avondale defence kept them under pressure and at a distance.

The game turned in the third quarter. The fabulously consistent “Binder” opened with a pinpoint bottom corner shot from a foul on six or seven meters and Avondale’s excellent defence had what is technically referred to as “a blinder”. Dave “Stretch” Standley, lived up to his name with some excellent improbably distant steals, Moorhouse was impregnable and the keeper pulled off an unlikely save moving across the whole goal to deny Otter an inevitable score and blocking another point blank backhand with his wizened head. Two penalties drawn from aggressive drives around the rock solid “Tank” in the pit and a late steal and break from “Stretch” capped off an excellent quarter for the visitors. Judging by the somewhat ironic cheer that issued from the whole squad when Stretch beat the keeper on both of his one-on-one breaks the confidence with which he finished tonight may not reflect his normal modus operandi!

The quarter ended with Avondale six clear and baring accidents, past the post. There were no accidents and whilst they did let their foot off the gas a little the game had moved beyond Otter. There was a suggestion from one of the Avondale players that at five down and within the last minute that Otter’s last timeout was a chance for the coach to write their drinks order on the clipboard; you never can tell.

It promises to be an eventful season…..

No comments: