Opponents: Portsmouth Mayfield Competition: National KO Cup Semi Final Date: Saturday 10th March 2001 Venue: Loughborough University Result: 3-1 Loss (16-25, 25-19, 16-25, 25-27) Headline: Docklands falter at last Author: Mike Lams
impressive unbeaten streak finally came to an end on Saturday, as they
encountered Portsmouth in the semi-final of the English Knock-Out Cup.
Portsmouth currently placed second in National League Division One, started well and raced off to an early lead. Docklands never looked at ease, and despite slowing down the runaway train a little towards the end of the set, were just not in it as they went down 25-16.
After this wake-up call, Docklands came on court with more aggression, even if they couldn't quite rediscover the rhythm that had been the feature of their wins earlier in the competition. However, big hits from middle hitter Yassir Sliti and some towering blocks from Martin Blake forced the breakthrough. Although it wasn't pretty, the set went to the London team: 25-19.
At 1-1, though, the game started to slip away from Docklands, as once again they failed to find the spark they needed. Frustration set in as the Portsmouth defence seemed able stop all the Londoners' attacks. Big hitters Alexis Blair and Ned Groy blew hot and cold, and unforced serving and passing errors at crucial moments meant the third set went the way of the first: 25-16.
Worse was to come. In an incredibly tense fourth set, which went right down to the wire, Docklands were unable to convert two set points (to take the game to a tie break) and paid the penalty. At 27-25, both the match and the Cup dream were over, and players inconsolable.
Portsmouth deserved their win - as they are certainly a side on good form. Nevertheless, Docklands had good reason to be disappointed. For whether or not they were over-awed by the big occasion, they certainly did not produce the form they are capable of to really test the Division One side.
All that remained was a long journey back down the M1 to reflect on the missed chances - and to plot revenge next year, after securing promotion to the top flight in the League. This could all be wrapped up at the final home game against Harriers on Saturday 24th March.