This was a cracker worthy of the souvenir DVD treatment as two supremely committed sides battled through a blisteringly exciting game that had a capacity crowd spell-bound.
Spencer’s youth rampaged through periods of this game with an irresistible force, welding silky skills to a ferocious determination that shocked Reading’s beefy team.
It was a thrill-a-minute roller-coaster game with both teams taking advantage of the late switch to the lush surface of Spencer HQ (thanks to the 1’s game being scratched) to put on a stunning display of lacrosse.
The visitors arrived with a wealth of experience, last season’s 1st team attack, and four players over 6ft 2ins to be greeted by the Spencer’s slender teenagers (backed up by a few doddery geezers who needed a Life on Mars regression to find the last time they were in possession of form and fitness).
And it started much as the weigh-in suggested with Reading muscling to a 5-0 lead with crisp, confident passing while keeping the Spencer ‘flyweights’ at arms length. But their whoops of delight evaporated on the roar of the response from Spencer’s young lions. A huge effort in the midfield saw chances start to come and Jules Glover and Sam Johnson replied to make it 5-2 at the quarter.
Backed by healthy support from non-playing Spencer folk, the coaching of Chris Elia and helpful words from Dustin Coombe, Spencer faced the uphill shift into the jaws of the confident Reading beast. But the steam-roller was suddenly on the other foot (sounds painful!) as Spencer charged into the oppo and took the physical to the formidable. Ibs al-Souss and Jamie Stagg started to win regular possession and the transition moved into top gear.
The big defence suddenly appeared lumbering as the attack switched the ball quickly and dodged with rapier speed. Some passes went astray and shots disappeared wide but it was Purple Rain time as the visitors were put under siege.
Reading struggled to get any possession and were panicked into a time-out which they used well to calm shredded nerves and grab a goal back. But Spencer weren’t finished and kept their opponents away from the ball for large chunks of Q2. Ibs found a deadly range and Jules and Sam created havoc with defenders who resorted to some fairly borderline hits to stem the tide.
The comeback was nailed by an impulse bullet shot into the top-left corner from Sam ten yards out. 6-6 was a phoenix fight back from Compton’s Kids.
Big credit to Reading who licked their wounds and came straight back at Spencer with some power running and controlled team-work. It was their turn to look unstoppable and demonstrate great skills and intent. They started to push a weary Spencer around and won Q3 by 4 goals to 1 to jump to a 10-7 advantage which include a freeze-frame moment when an attacker turned with all the grace of John Sergeant on valium to net.
Reading streamed downhill in the final quarter swiftly adding to their lead with two more strikes but a strategic time-out and big final effort again defied the odds and superbly worked goals from Ibs, Sam and Jules, sneaking to score round the post, opened the game up again. The two dodge-twist-fake-shoot goals from Ibs and Sam out-awesomed earlier strikes.
Peter Compton also got on the scoresheet as he converted a classic Third Home-Wing Defence draw play straight from the parchment pages of the Old Sedcopians playbook – something he studied avidly before taking up his ball boy duties at the 1958 Flags Final between the mighty Sedcopians and Old Dingbats. (Younger members can get a translation of this paragraph from Ian Ballantine).
Reading’s lead was cut back to two again as the game see-sawed and the physical side was amped up but expert, controlled reffing from Ian ensured the game had an even-handed flow. Neither team took a backward step in an exhausting final quarter where 11 goals were traded as the pace rose to fever pitch.
Spencer went 15-11 down but then with the gloom descending hit back with two more but, despite valiant attempts and the post getting in the way a few times, Reading managed to ride out the final minutes for a knife-edge victory. The entire team deserves massive credit for its ability, refusal to buckle and resilience to claw back a decent oppo who must have thought they had the game in the bag at least three times.
Oscar B-T showed great fight and sublime take-away skills throughout while Toby Rule rose to the challenge and helped Bill Fisher put the grrr into ground ball. Ben McLellan was again masterful at the clear and setting up dangerous attacks while Salim al-Souss, Mike Pierce and Daniel Ball pitched in with some great stick work and effort.
There were turnovers in dangerous places, some needless penalties and times when Spencer’s exuberance might have benefitted from a degree of boring possession but the pace and punch were what rattled Reading so the trade-off may not have worked. There was a great deal to learn but even more to praise for such a youthful team.
Reading left town with collective sighs of relief and huge admiration for Spencer. The fans streamed home happy and impressed at what could be a landmark performance for many of the team as they progress. It was clearly the divisional game of the season and sets the scene nicely for the 2’s epic match at Reading in two weeks.
Quarter Scores: 2-6 / 6-6 / 7-10 / 13-15
Scorers: Sam Johnson 5, Ibs al-Souss 4, Jules Glover 2, Danny Buckland, Peter Compton
Man of the Match: Great team performance