Opponents: Coventry & Warwick Riga Competition: Super 8s Date: Saturday 22nd January 2011 Venue: Haverstock School, Chalk Farm Result: W 3-2 (23-25, 25-19, 25-19, 21-25, 15-9)
Click here for some photos by Jon McGugan from the match.
Wherever Docklands' season ends up, one thing is becoming clear, they won't have got there the easy way. Having lost their first eight games of the season, taking only one set in the process, they have now notched up their second win in as many weeks beating rivals Coventry & Warwick Riga in a nail-biting five-setter. Dead and buried at Christmas, something has sparked them into life.
Sometimes you need a little luck and, critically, deep into the fifth set, Docklands got the rub of the green. In what had been a thoroughly passionate game from start to finish, an innocuous exchange between Riga talisman, Kees De Hoogh, and Docklands setter, Andy Vincett, bought yellow cards for both players and the penalty points incurred moved the score to 13-8, taking Docklands to just two points from victory and sealing Riga's fate. Up to that point the teams had traded blows like boxers and showed unbelievable resilience - at times it appeared as though there were eight men on each side as difficult is was for either side to put the ball away. Bottom of the table clash this may have been but you wouldn't have guessed it.
Docklands had lost set one narrowly 23-25 finding it too steep a mountain to climb having slumped to 1-6 down in the opening exchanges. But they carried into the second set the attitude that had seen them battle back and at the first technical time-out in the second set, they were on top 8-4. Newly installed opposite hitter Matteo Cottignoli took six consecutive points from the service line and Docklands closed the set out easy winners 25-19. Riga looked in trouble, Docklands were riding the crest of a wave.
But then that doesn't explain how the visitors came out at the start of the third and blasted Docklands away jumping to an 4-8 lead. Docklands needed captain Alexis Blair to rescue the situation with a devastating kill followed by a string of seven serves. The momentum swung again and once on top Docklands remained in control to go two sets to one up.
Riga rallied again. Chris Anderson, playing his final game in England, was determined to go out a victor and he was finding consistent success with his line hit through the outside. With the evergreen De Hoogh blasting away on the opposite wing and setter, and Riga man of the match, Phil Wyles, using the middle to keep the Docklands blockers guessing, Riga were more than a match for the home side and they moved the game inevitably towards a fifth set.
With the roles reversed - Riga in the ascendancy, Docklands needed to find some fight and some form - it was impossible to see how this game might end up. Half way through at 8-6 to Docklands the set and the match was still in the balance. Blair again gave Docklands a surge forward to go up 10-6. Docklands would have felt confident of closing the match out from there, but then who knows in such an unpredictable game, until the yellow cards all but settled the issue.
Docklands' captain Blair, said afterwards, "I'd prefer it if we could stop needing five sets to win matches but as long as we keep on winning I don't care. Another great all round team performance today and if we can keep this up who knows where we'll end up."
Docklands next face Team Northumbria, another team seemingly destined to finish in the bottom four.
Docklands: Ali Tighsazzadeh, Stankiewicz, Omylski, Cottignoli, Blair, Sliti, Vincett, Segars, Senatore, Blake, Galli.
Riga: Wyles, De Hoogh, Anderson, Turnbull, Riding, Zawalich, Naseri, Smith, Young, Aissaoui.
by Docklands: Riga's Phil Wyles
Black Knight: Mohammed Ali Tighsazzadeh