Fresh from two comeback wins at National League level, Clifton Robinsons Men’s 1st XI entertained Chichester at Clifton College in what was, to date, their best overall performance of the young season so far. It has been typical of the team to start matches slowly, and unfortunately, this game was not an exception. Chichester hit the ground running and came out hard, pressing Robbies into a number of mistakes on the ball and errant passes, flooding forward when given the opportunity from turnover ball. However there is a steeliness about the team this season, a bend-but-don’t-break mentality and the Chichester storm was mostly weathered thanks to some excellent penalty corner defence and key saves in open play from goalkeeper Andy Hughes. Chichester did manage to score with a sharp and well executed drag flick that just evaded Hughes and post defender Mike MacDowell; but this was the only damage and Robbies grew into the game and came close to troubling the scorer with a Rory Thornburn drag flick just wide and Ollie King close to making a telling connection with a cross flashed across the face of goal.
Half time: 1-0 to Chichester.
As can often be the way in matches at this level, the team that reacts best to the game situation at half time can capitalise, and in this case, a small tactical shift by Robbies made a telling contribution. Max Liebenschutz-Jones was pushed into midfield, leaving, perhaps, on average the tallest, heaviest and oldest back three contingent available of MacDowell, Thorburn and assistant coach Scott Davidson as rearguard, and he, alongside Conor Pinnell and Tom Appleby began to dominate the Chichester midfield.
Max himself came close to scoring from a penalty corner, but his shot was marginally outside the circle when struck, but from two more corners Robbies were successful, with Ollie King and Nick Robilliard picking up the pieces after the Chris Bristow in the Chichester goal had saved drag flicks.
The Bristol team started to turn the screw, with another goal from Robilliard disallowed and Bristow superbly denying Ollie King with a full reach stick save to turn the young star’s rocket tomahawk onto the post. Now in the ascendency, Robbies absorbed pressure from Chichester, and Max all but decided the game with an early contender for goal of the season.
Picking the ball up on half-way near the left hand touchline, he carried the ball diagonally towards the Chichester circle, eliminating three players with deft turns of pace. He drove into the circle, turned back on himself, stuck a sweetly struck reverse hit into the top corner and turned to lap up the adulation from the 50 strong crowd in attendance.
This brought a quick riposte from Chichester who earned multiple penalty corners and in the process Pinnell and Appleby were rewarded with yellow cards to increase the pressure. Thanks to smart saves from Hughes and an on-the-line stop from MacDowell on a penalty corner, Robbies escaped unscathed and secured the result with a Thorburn aerial to Bill Springett who masterfully won a penalty stroke which was converted by MacDowell.
Final score: Clifton Robinsons 4 – 1 Chichester
Man of the Match: Max “Mario” Liebenschutz-Jones