UEA men’s third hockey team had to come from behind at the Sportspark to beat Dereham thirds 4-2 in an end-to-end affair and extend their unbeaten season so far.
Captain Dan Mcmahon was the star for a UEA side which also included the returning Josh Glasford (pictured), who has recently resumed competitive action following more than a year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
It was the visitors who drew first blood early on, with a looping effort threatening to halt UEA thirds’ successful start to the season. But UEA established themselves in the game with a good spell of attacking pressure.
Glasford managed to tame a ferocious through-ball from midfield lynchpin Matt Thompson and crossed it into the danger area, where the referee awarded a foul against a UEA attacker.
UEA couldn’t make anything of the resulting corner, or a couple after that, but kept up the heat on the Dereham defence.
A scramble in the UEA area led to a short corner for the visitors which came to nothing, before the lively Glasford had a shot saved. UEA’s goalkeeper Tommy Blanden made a superb save from a Dereham short corner before captain Mcmahon poked home the equaliser on the stroke of half-time to restore parity.
Mcmahon nearly started the second period where he left off, letting rip a decent shot, before heroically managing to keep the ball in play on the left wing. The resulting UEA effort nestled high into the goal from range but was subsequently ruled out.
UEA maintained their attacking intensity. A UEA cross was palmed away by the visiting goalkeeper before George Anderson unleashed a belting shot which gave the stopper no chance and put UEA 2-1 up.
Having come from behind to lead, UEA now exerted an intense period of pressure. Glasford flashed a shot just wide after another good save from the Dereham keeper, before he made it 3-1 with a goal from a short corner, assisted by good work from Mcmahon, the pair linking up well.
Glasford then turned provider, his parried shot teeing up Mcmahon whose effort looked almost certain to be heading into the far corner before Henry Pease poked it in to make sure.
UEA conceded from a short corner a minute from time to make it 4-2, but there was no time for a Dereham comeback, and it hardly dented the party atmosphere among UEA’s healthy support.
Next up was an entertaining game for the women’s firsts against Harleston Magpies thirds which ended in a four-all draw. They also went 1-0 down in the early stages after good Magpies passing from a short corner. UEA goalkeeper Kaylee Dickerson made a superb save before UEA had two of their own efforts blocked by the visiting stopper.
Dickerson then made another great stop, coming well out of her goal to narrow the angle and deflect a shot away from danger.
UEA were enjoying themselves going forward now. A fluid passing move all the way from defence to attack nearly yielded a goal, but the teams were soon level through forward Amy Jones who converted a second slick attack from UEA in as many minutes.
UEA could have taken the lead soon after, flashing wide from a short corner, but they then made their pressure pay as a shot dribbled in at the near post to make it 2-1.
Harleston then took control of the rest of the half. First they rattled UEA’s post, with Dickerson equal to the rebound. However she couldn’t stop the visitors equalising soon after to see the sides go into the half-time break level at two apiece.
The second period started with good work from the lively Áine Gransden, who couldn’t on this occasion fashion a chance. She then used her pace to race away from the visiting defence, rounding the goalkeeper one-on-one but just dragging the ball too far in doing so and only being able to create a crossing opportunity which was dealt with well by the Harleston back line.
UEA went ahead again from the resulting short corner, with Beth Rosier slamming in an unstoppable shot.
UEA could have netted from another well worked short corner moments later, just slotting wide. There was some brave defending from UEA to maintain their lead following a short corner award to the visitors.
With UEA looking fairly comfortable, putting wide a well-worked short corner, the game then took a rapid turn.
The home defence had to be alert to defend a short corner, but moments later a beautiful equaliser made it 3-3, before a sucker punch saw UEA 4-3 down as the Magpies’ forward beat UEA goalkeeper Dickerson to the ball and tucked in.
UEA rallied after this, helped by some quality attacking midfield play from Harriet Scott-Clark. A UEA short corner was kept at bay, before Gransden dribbled through the Magpies’ defence but couldn’t notch up a deserved assist.
However, UEA weren’t done there. Nicola Ralph scored a dramatic late equaliser for 4-4, a draw probably a fair reflection of an end-to-end, exciting seventy minutes of hockey.
Also at the Sportspark, the men’s second team named an experienced side against North Norfolk including Sam Green and Dominic Strong in defence, with Tom England and Tom Price leading the attack.
After a neat save from captain and goalkeeper Pranav Hegde, forward Henry Ashcroft blasted in an unstoppable shot to give UEA the lead.
UEA’s Will Langton was running the show in midfield. After composed play from club man of the match Matthew Wavish, Price set up Ashcroft with a good looking chance, but the latter couldn’t get a clean connection under pressure from the visiting defence and had to be replaced after sustaining a nasty looking finger injury in the process – an unfortunate curtailment of a game in which he was one of UEA’s brightest threats.
George Robbins was another playing well, and after his impressive strike was acrobatically saved by the Dereham stopper, England’s goal from the rebound was chalked off by the umpires.
UEA still looked dangerous in attack in the final twenty minutes, but the visiting defence remained organised. The goalkeeper made another extraordinary save to keep out a stinging Green shot from a short corner.
UEA then agonisingly conceded against the run of play to leave the score tied long after the hosts should have been comfortable.
To their credit, UEA kept pressing but to no avail, with Hegde needing to stay alert to make a pair of smart saves to preserve the point towards the end of the match.
The men’s firsts travelled to Ipswich and East Suffolk thirds and picked up a 2-1 victory, with both goals coming from Ben Thompson.