The first weekend of the new year was both treacherous and opportune. Fitness after the Christmas break was always going to be troublesome and Poly were hampered by the cancellation of our normal Wednesday night session. Both games were against Div 1 opponents, with all to play for in a tightly packed top four.
Caledonia 8 - 8 Polytechnic
Caledonia look likely to go down from Div 1 and it was disappointing to share points from a match Poly might have won. Understandably the standard of polo was affected by a lack of fitness and match sharpness from both sides, but Caledonia took advantage of Poly’s myopic defensive work to force the draw. Lacking dynamism, too often players were left unmarked, or allowed to swim through to 2m without defensive reshuffle. Ultimately this cost Poly the game, because in static attacks Caledonia presented little danger. Only the referee was more shore sighted, deciding that Carlos Ardid had gained an unfair advantage but “mouthing” the back of the centre-forwards head, for which he received a split lip and an exclusion. This was a moment when we needed Gary Simons for a running punt of the 2m cone. In attack Poly looked dangerous against the drop, largely thanks to the shooting arm of newcomer Lorenzo Cacciola, who netted three times from distance. This changed when the left-hander was outside the pool and Poly would do well to remember that attack is prospective, with much needed movement sorely missing. With a right-hander on the weak side, a drive from 4 was needed to create the space to play a second centre-forward, shoot off the pass or pick off one of the post men. On the positive side, this is a game Poly could as easily have lost, but it speaks volumes that the result felt like a defeat. Maybe just one volume.
Sheffield 10 - 9 Polytechnic
Sheffield now lead the table with maximum points from four games. They are a strong team, with decent players and strong pit forwards, but ultimately Poly were the cause of our own undoing. Mistakes get made, what matters is that we learn from them. Someone important said that and therefore it must be true; sadly Poly received a D- for this test. The attack proved variably successful and once again Lorenzo Cacciola scored four fine goals from the arc, with his compatriot Sergio Schiaffino slotting another four from close range. It became clear that Sheffield had a strategy for shutting down Chris Icely in centre-forward and Poly might have benefitted from a tactical change in this regard, using a jobbing centre-forward to create space for Chris at number five, where he has proven effective all season. Defence is where the mistakes were unmistakeable (that’s some sort of pun); Poly opted for a press defence, but failed to divine the meaning of the word, making it far too easy for Sheffield to work the ball around and feed a pass in to 2m. This left either Ardid, or Jeremy Johnson looking like a “Melon” and ultimately, Poly shipped the majority of goals from 2m. Apparently we were playing an M-zone for the final quarter, but this message had apparently not been communicated to the players. Either that or the team needs a bit more sign-posting…or perhaps a lobotomy? Jokes (and puns) aside, defence has traditionally been a relative strength of the Poly historically, but it is critical that we remember that defence is active, not passive. A collective understanding of the precise nature of our defensive duties would go some way to making this side truly dangerous. This team has pedigree and experience, but this needs to be translated into better in-game communication and tactical decision making.
Overall there is as much positive as negative to be taken from the weekend. Poly have only lost one game so far and have no more division 1 opponents to play. With 3 weeks of the season left, we need a focused attendance at training, along with a positive attitude to the final weekend. Crucially, we must play with positivity, both offensively and defensively.
- Jeremy Johnson