This was an incredibly full day for me. With very light rain in Mito I decided to take light clothing before driving to Mito's alternate ground, Hitachinaka Community Sports Park Stadium in neighboring Hitachinaka city, as it is Hitachinaka Day. Hitachinaka is right on the coast, though, and that ground is less than a mile from the ocean. From early in the morning, strong winds and rainbrought actual bitter cold on the last day of May. Setting up to work the away gate, I was shivering within minutes of that 3 hour job. The wind was so continuous and strong that I did not secure the signs to the fences, but just placed them, and the wind held them in place for the whole morning and early afternoon. Both coaches mentioned the difficulty of playing into the wind in thier half time and after game comments.
Then I headed inside, as for the first time I'd be staffing the stretchers to carry injured players during gametime. For the game's entirety I sat a few feet from the pitch, right next to Tokushima manager Minobe. He was mostly quiet unless the camera was on him. His constant yelling of "Take the ball back! Take the ball back!" is a little annoying. Speaking with his head coach, he often switched up the players covering Mito midfielders Hori and Park. During the game, I had to go onto the pitch a few times in case the players needed carrying off. I did end up carrying off to the training room an injured Tokushima midfielder Oshima, who is famous in that city for being the scorer of the team's first professional goal.
As for the game itself, it was hotly contested in terrible conditions. Both teams fielded new squads, with Tokushima star Doumbia outfor the match and Mito using forward Endo as a starting member for the first time. The action never really stopped, as both teams pushed continuously. Mito had the majority of chances and possession, yet Tokushima could have taken the game at several instances as well. Most of the potential scoring chances happened in the second half, with the biggest coming from Mito forward Arata who fired one in after being caught offside. The close calls were mostly for Mito and they eventually culminated in the winning goal taken by midfielder Hori in the last minute of injury time. He caught the rebound from defender Hiramatsu's shot, and quickly popped in the winner. Mito's bench exploded, and I instinctually jumped and cheered. Minobe glared at me, likely because I was the closest person celebrating.
After the game I spoke with manager Kiyama as well as goalscorer Hori. I told him the shot was a good one, but he expressed disappointment that he took it with his right foot and not the left. I also asked if he'd be watching tomorrow's game... His former team, JFL's Sagawa, travels to Utsunomiya to play against Tochigi SC tomorrow. It looks like we'll both be going. While I'll be in the stands cheering for a former coworker, a former Mito player, and trying to catch up with the former Mito liason who moved to Tochigi SC last month, he will probably be around the Sagawa locker room watching with his former teammates. I doubt I'll see him there.