Varsity 2013: Men’s Hockey Postmatch Report

16th March 2013

Beeston Hockey Club was host to the tightest game of the Varsity Series so far, in which the Uni & Trent Men’s Hockey 1sts had to be separated by penalty flicks, having drawn the game 2-2. But fortune smiled on the Uni boys as they triumphed on penalties 6-5.

Torrential rain didn’t stop the two sides coming out all guns blazing for the start of the game, making an immediately physical start with fouls conceded by both sides from the word go. However, the conditions were not conducive to flowing hockey; the players found it hard to find traction and wayward passes were a common feature in the first half.

Uni held the lion’s share of possession in the first half, but lacked coherence in the final third. Their problems were compounded by an efficient performance by the Trent defenders, who moved fast to place Uni attackers under pressure and deny them space.

As the first half ended 0-0 it was clear that Trent had a gameplan – to sit back, make Uni do the hard work, and bide their time to exploit a Uni mistake – and it was working. Trent denied Uni any clearcut chances in the first half, which is a credit to the compusure of their players and their defensive discipline in the face of successive Uni attacks.

The second half had a very different character, as Trent actually looked to attack, trying to play diagonal aerial balls over the Uni midfield to fast-advancing wingers. This proved to be an error, however, as it granted Uni more space to play around the Trent defenders. Without as much midfield support and under more pressure than ever, it was no surprise to see Trent’s defenders concede two short corners in quick succession, the first of which was converted by Uni’s number 7 to put Uni 1-0 ahead.

As the rain turned to drizzle, Trent’s heads seemed to drop, and a lazy approach to man-marking saw them leak their second goal, as Uni’s number 5 right back ran the length of the pitch unopposed to put in a picture perfect cross for Uni fan favourite Sid Kapoor, who was free at the far post to put away a simple goal.

Trent were clearly losing their rag by this stage, and one of their centre backs being sin-binned for dissent did not help matters (although it must be said the ref needed no excuse to even the odds when he sin-binned Uni’s number 27 immediately after). Acutely aware that his team needed a drastic change, the Trent coach took a massive roll of the dice by substituting their keeper for an outfield player.

It was a high-risk move, but with less than 10 minutes of play left Trent had nothing to lose. Incredibly, the gambit worked. Uni’s defence was overloaded by Trent’s presence of an extra man, and Beeston Hockey Club was witness to the greatest comeback of the Varsity Series so far as Trent snuck away 2 goals in quick succession to even the scores. The first Trent goal was pure inspiration from their number 18 at centre mid, who hammered the ball into the top left corner of the net from well outside the D, leaving Uni’s keeper helpless. The second goal resulted from a short corner conceded by an overwhelmed Uni defence.

The end result was that with the scores tied, the match was to be decided by penalty flicks.Winning on penalties requires a lot of bottle, and a little bit of luck – fortunately Uni had both, and they rode out 6-5 winners. Chris Brown spoke to Uni’s captain, Andrew ‘Monty’ Sutherland, who was delighted with the performance his boys had put in under some challenging conditions.

Varsity 2013: Men’s Hockey
UoN 2-2 NTU: Uni win 6-5 on penalties
15/3/13 at Beeston Hockey Club

Words by Michael Gaffney, audio by Chris Brown