This weekend heralded the start of Poly's journey back to division 1 of the British National Waterpolo League. Of course, preparation has been underway for several months now, spearheaded by our new Italian coach Livio. Bringing some much needed energy and focus, he has been a breath of fresh air, giving coherence to an often disparate squad of individuals. Allied to this has been an emphasis on fitness, a weapon that has been missing from the Poly arsenal in times past. With fitness comes technique and in high end matches the consistent delivery of technique is essential. The tools are there, but what of results?
Game 1 Polytechnic - Croydon
Croydon have been something of a bogey team in recent times for Poly. Scrappy games, with loss of structure do not suit Poly and too often we have allowed matches to fracture and unwind. This game was something of a curate's egg of an affair. A bright start, with Sergio Schiaffano proving alert and calm in front of goal took Poly to a 2-0 lead by the end of quarter 1. Outside of the 3rd quarter, the only one Poly would lose, the match sheet describes a composed and efficient march to victory. What it doesn't show is a worrying profligacy in front of goal from the team as a whole. Chance after chance, miss after miss. Enough 1-1 opportunities were missed as to obscure individuals from being singled out for reproach. Matteo was easily Poly's MVP with many outstanding saves throughout the game; without his performance the result may have been different. Poly's defence has been it's true, dependable strength for many years now and pleasingly this remains the case. Genuine opportunities for Croydon were limited and ultimately they were always kept at arms length.
Game 2 Polytechnic - Worthing
Worthing are the newcomers to division 2, but signalled their intent with victory over Penguin on Saturday night. Poly were unacceptably short in depth, with a squad of only 8 outfield players available for the game. If a serious challenge is to be made, this will need to change. Poly led the game from start to finish; the Worthing attack was rendered worthless by
a comprehensive and composed defensive display. A front marked centre-forward with a tight arc press limited genuine opportunities with some disciplined work at centre-back. The story in attack was alarmingly different, echoing the same lack of killer instinct as in game 1. The Worthing goalkeeper stood head and shoulders above his team mates, but nonetheless, Poly were guilty of a static and unimaginative attack in the face of a deep drop by Worthing. Dynamism was required, but drives were rare and careless shots common. The few times Poly created space to play off the centre-forward led to kick-outs and a nice goal from John Bright followed neat interplay between Luke Jones and Jeremy Johnson. This area of the attack clearly needs practice and Livio will undoubtedly guide the team in this respect. Overall the balance of opportunities still leant heavily towards Poly, but again, capitalising on them is a must. Surprisingly, fitness probably saved Poly from both results narrowly turning against us.
The story is a mixed one so far then. Solid defensive work has been retained and fitness added. Attack remains the greatest area for improvement. It is encouraging that chances are being created, but this has to be translated into goals lest we risk failing to fulfil our undoubted potential.
Special mentions for this weekend go to Matteo for an outstanding performance in goal, Serigio as top scorer and Ben "The Broom" Rubra our second goalkeeper. Ben did not get any pool time with us this weekend, but remained a positive influence from the bench and kept good humour throughout. Everyone in this team carries equal importance. We said we wouldn't single out the missed one on ones, but we lied and we will. Luke, Sergio, Chris, Fernando, Fernando, Fernando. You know who you are.
- Jeremy Johnson