Clubhouse: Southgate's second half fight back

Southgate's Jonty Robinson is tracked by Tom Carson of Reading. Credit Simon Parker. - 450


North London’s premier hockey club, Southgate, has been at the top table of hockey for decades. The roll of honour is liberally spiced with coaches and players who have also graced the international scene – James Duthie, David Vinson, Sean Kerly, Richard Dodds and Steve Batchelor, to name just a few. And the red and black strip is synonymous with domestic success – the club has eight national titles and has won the European Club Championships on three occasions.

But that success was in the past and this season Southgate men’s first team have struggled. Christmas found them in the bottom three after a poor run of results and relegation began to look like a real possibility. But after the break, the team rallied and got their season back on track with a 3-2 win over league leaders East Grinstead. Since then they have narrowly lost to high-flying Nottingham club, Beeston, and drawn with Reading, but coach Jonty Robinson remains confident his side are on the cusp of rediscovering winning ways and a mid-table place should be within their grasp.

“The start to the season was actually pretty good,” said Robinson. “We beat Brooklands away and competed well against Surbiton and Wimbledon. We got hit with a few injuries to some of our key players, which really tested the depth of our squad. I'm really excited for the second half of the season, there is a good feeling within the side and the guys are looking sharp and determined. It was really good to get a result against East Grinstead but we know there is still a lot of hockey to play, so we will keep working hard.”

Southgate's Trent Park a picture during Southgate vs Cannock

Captain David Wilson says that finding themselves at the wrong end of the league has been a wake-up call for the North London side. “Our early results reflected our confidence, but after facing a few of the top premier league sides and suffering consecutive defeats, morale did dip a tad. The Christmas break has really helped us. We have regrouped and rediscovered the belief we had early on. Our coach, management team and senior players have been instrumental in keeping everyone motivated despite the setbacks towards the end of last year.”

Robinson identified lapses in concentration and a lack of confidence in front of the goal as the two major issues in Southgate’s performances this season. He said: “We have not been as clinical as we needed to be in the final thirds. And we know that in top sport it’s the small moments which change the game.”

While a play-off position is now well out of Southgate’s reach, both coach and captain are confident they can achieve a mid-table finish. Robinson is also hopeful of a good cup run. His squad has worked hard over the Christmas break and confidence is partially restored after that victory over East Grinstead.

Assessing the other teams in the league, Wilson said: “Beeston and East Grinstead were our toughest opponents in the first round. Both sides reminded us what premier league hockey is all about. Adam Dixon and David Ames of Beeston were brilliant against us and have been over the last few years. From East Grinstead, Chris Griffiths and Mark Pearn are both really difficult opponents with great ability and, although he didn't feature in our last match against EG, Ashley Jackson is always a league standout as well.”

Back at Trent Park, the men’s results are followed eagerly by the remainder of the teams. “We want as many people as possible on the balcony and make GOOOOOAAAAL heard all the way to East Grinstead.” was the rallying cry on social media before the East Grinstead encounter. This north London club may have a 125-year history and numerous titles, but it is not a club that has stood still or rested on its laurels. There are currently 10 men’s teams – the usual firsts to fifth, but then five teams catering for a range of abilities, veterans, players returning to the game, and occasional players – and six women’s teams. Add to this a flourishing youth section and regular tournaments and tours and you get a palpable feeling that this stalwart of the domestic hockey scene is a community club that is moving with the times.

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