TWENTY years is a long time between games, but from Marlow Hockey Club's perspective it was worth the wait as they beat Wycombe in a frantic, nine-goal bonanza at Pound Lane on Saturday.
It’s been two decades since the two grand old ladies of Bucks hockey last met in the league, during which time Marlow have been the poorer relations slumming in the county leagues while Wycombe paraded themselves on a regional stage.
However, ever since Marlow secured their return to Premier Division Two last season this is the game that has preoccupied them.
Vice captain Nee Sood said: “It’s the first game I looked for when the fixtures came out and we’ve wanted to beat them since the start of the season.”
Twenty years of hurt is probably an exaggeration, but only just.
Sood said: “We don’t get to play each other much. We have a pre-season friendly each year but we haven’t played in the league for 20 years.
“So this game really captured the imagination and it was an absolutely awesome atmosphere.
“I’ve played a few first team games now but I’ve never seen it like that before, it was amazing.
“Everything we did we were clapped and hearing the crowd behind us like that was absolutely incredible.”
All the players had to do then was deliver, but when James Luff was sent off with 20 minutes gone it didn’t look great.
They were 1-0 in front by then courtesy of an own goal, but with 50 minutes to go that lead suddenly looked very brittle.
However, they clung to their advantage until the break and despite conceding an equaliser almost as soon as the second half kicked off they appeared to grow in stature during the second period.
Rich Cardigan and another own goal re-asserted their control, but derbies are never straightforward and Wycombe began to make the extra man count in the final 20 minutes, pulling one goal back and then levelling it at 3-3 with ten minutes still to play.
Compounding Marlow’s difficulties, a sin-binning reduced them to nine men but, against all odds, they flooded forward again to score a fourth through Alex Land.
Incredibly, that still wasn’t the end of it.
Wycombe equalised again with five minutes to go, but on this day of days Marlow simply would not be denied and Cardigan provided the drama at the death when he converted captain Dave Harding’s cross to win it for his team.
Sood said: “It was a hell of a game. There were so many twists and turns and it was an incredible feeling to score so late.
“But there was a lot of relief when the final whistle went. Being a man light, the second half seemed to go on forever but that just made the win even better.
“I can’t wait for the game at their place now. They’ve had the upper hand for a few years, but I think the tide is turning now.”
Marlow are seventh after Saturday’s absorbing game, but just two points behind second.
On Saturday they go to Ashford, who are fourth but level with them on 13 points.