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Europa Shield 2004, Budapest

Having qualified for the Europa Shield by finishing 3rd in the BKA National League last season, Croydon took their place in Europa Shield, held this year in Budapest, Hungary. The squad was one for the future, featuring only 4 of the team that secured qualification and included 5 Under 19s.

Croydon's pool was harder than compatriots Invicta, including Adler Rauxel from Germany, St Llorenc from Spain and Znojmo from Czech Republic. The team lined up against the giants from Adler Rauxel with Ross Carr-Taylor, Paul Jeanes, Saskia de Jager and Mandy Furlano in attack with Ivan Aquino, Andy Withers, Tammy Kentfield and Sarah George in defence. They got off to a flying start racing to a 3-1 lead after a long shot from Carr-Taylor and Withers converting 2 penalties won by Aquino. After a quick interchange including a running in goal from Withers, the Germans powered away and scored the next 5 goals to lead 8-4 at half time.

Adler Rauxel continued to show their strength and skill in the 2nd half as they scored 4 more unopposed goals to lead 12-4. Croydon recovered themselves however and shared the remaining 10 minutes 4 goals a piece with goals from Aquino, Withers and Carr-Taylor.

Final score: Croydon 8 Adler Rauxel 16

On the face of it this was a heavy defeat but coach and team were encouraged by the strong, committed performance against the team that featured the male player of the tournament and ended up in Runner's up spot.

Next up were Sant Lorenc from Spain. The Spanish were quick and played a game based almost entirely on running in shots. Croydon took their time figuring this out and despite 2 superb long shots from Aquino, found themselves 5-2 down at half time.

de Jager was soon to make an impact though and with 2 goals brought Croydon back into the match at 6-4. Nigel Hudspith was brought on for Withers and made an immediate impact with a goal from way down town. Further goals from de Jager and Aquino followed but Croydon were unable to keep the Spanish out and one last chance from de Jager hit the basket and bounced out just before time ran out, leaving the Spanish relieved to have hung on to a win.

Final score: Sant Lorenc 9 Croydon 8

Croydon were disappointed with the result which showed how well the team were playing.

The final match of the day was against eventual winners, Znojmo. With several weary legs and the impressive form of Znojmo, coach Peter Allan decided that the time was right to blood the squad if the game was not going Croydon's way after 15 minutes. Goals from de Jager and Carr-Taylor saw Croydon stay in touch for the first 8 minutes but despite goals from Furlano and another from de Jager, Croydon trailed 12-4 at half time.

On came Hudspith for Jeanes, Dans Pratt and Moore for Aquino and Withers and Becky Pratt for de Jager. The subs put up a good fight but class will out and the Czech eventually relaxed and strolled away with the win.

Final score: Znojmo 20 Croydon 6

Croydon were always up against as the well-drilled Czechs showing superb movement, shooting and fluidity in their play. This left Croydon in the bottom half for the next day, fancying their chances.

An early start the next day saw Croydon paired up with Havirov of the Czech Republic. Hudspith and Becky Pratt started in place of Withers and Kentfield. Croydon got off to a great start after a drop off from Jeanes and held their opponents for the next 8 minutes before the referee started awarding penalties. In ten 1st half minutes, 6 were awarded, 2 to Croydon (converted by Aquino) and 4 to Havirov. A goal from de Jager left the game wide open at the break 5-4 to the Czechs.

The 2nd half was a low scoring affair with George scoring both of Croydon's goals as neither side were able to convert their chances and the game came to a close.

Final score: Havirov 9 Croydon 6

Again Croydon were disappointed not to have made their good opportunities count.

Croydon went into the 7th/8th play-off with determination to come away with some points on the board for all their efforts. The original line-up was restored for the match against hosts Szentendre. A slow start, however, saw Szentendre take an early 4-1 lead, much to the noisy crowd's delight. However a couple of goals from Carr-Taylor brought Croydon back into the game and at the break the visitors were only a goal down at 5-4.

The 2nd half got off to a perfect start for Croydon with 5 unanswered goals from Jeanes, Aquino, Withers, Carr-Taylor and de Jager. Croydon then looked to use up some of the clock and this they did whilst conceding a goal or two but a long range goal from Jeanes brought relief to Croydon bench and supporters and a last minute penalty was too little too late for the hosts as Croydon eased out the game.

Final score: Croydon 10 Szentendre 8

A well deserved win and 7th place for Croydon after the disappointment of earlier near misses

Overall a good time was had by all, including a few incidents of a more comedic nature: Peter scaling a 6 foot fence on the way to the teams' meeting; Mandy proudly announcing that she had an IQ of 101 and then admitting that she did have "bad IQ days"; Mike and Steve turning up half cut, having gone out in Budapest until 3am on about 3.50; Andy almost severing off his finger in an incident with a vicious bread roll; Mandy losing her (self-penned?) love letters; conker rain and sleeping end-to-end in tiny beds.

Croydon Squad:

Ivan Aquino, Ross Carr-Taylor, Saskia de Jager, Mandy Furlano, Sarah George, Nigel Hudspith, Paul Jeanes, Tammy Kentfield, Dan Moore, Becky Pratt, Dan Pratt, Andy Withers. Bench warmer & fan: Lynda Barker. Coach: Peter Allan

Report by: Andy