UEA Eagles advanced into the semi-finals of the Lacrosse Midlands Conference Cup with an 8-2 victory over Nottingham 3rds at Colney Lane on Wednesday.
The team will be hoping to bring the trophy home to East Anglia having come runners-up in the competition last season. Next term the Eagles will be ineligible to participate owing to their recently confirmed promotion to the Midlands 1A division.
UEA burst out of the traps, and were 3-0 to the good with little more than fifteen minutes on the clock thanks to goals from Andy Bloore after two minutes, Jhan Tibudan and Jack Govey. As UEA settled into the game, the visitors became more physical with Matt Dewhurst temporarily forced off the pitch after riding two heavy challenges in midfield.
As the first quarter wound up, UEA began peppering the visitors’ goal with shots. Shu Omi was looking good for the hosts and Warren Reynolds found himself in a promising position in front of goal but was thwarted by a combination of two Notts defenders and their keeper.
Having shaken off his knock, Dewhurst was proving a real livewire for the Eagles, firing over after being played in by Tibudan before flashing a fierce shot just wide from distance.
Elliot Ashmead was frustrated to not find the net despite some horrendous defending as the nearest Notts player seemed to temporarily forget he was holding a Lacrosse stick and thought instead that he had just landed from the Fortnite battle bus wielding an axe.
Tibudan then got in on the act, shooting into a packed Notts area before seeing another strike deflected wide. Even though they exerted far more pressure towards the end of the quarter, UEA couldn’t add to their three goals already on the scoresheet. UEA’s solid defensive unit was seldom tested with the midfield and attack cruising.
The second period began with UEA continuing where they left off. Ashmead drew a good save from the Notts keeper, before in the next passage of play, Tibudan popped up again to make it 4-0. Bloore was on hand moments later to extend UEA’s lead to five.
UEA kept the visitors under the cosh, despite the Notts attack warming up as the quarter wore on. Seb Grant flashed wide before a superb defensive catch from Will Vickers saw him set off upfield on the counter-attack, passing to Dewhurst who cut inside but saw his shot saved. Vickers was then on hand to bravely keep UEA’s clean sheet.
By the start of the third quarter the drizzle had started at a bitterly cold Colney Lane with conditions rapidly deteriorating. The half-time words of injured captain Harry Harris that 5-0 was not enough for UEA to slack off must have been ringing in the ears of the defence as they were twice caught too high up the pitch allowing Notts to pull the score back to 5-2.
It’s to UEA’s credit, then, that they managed to regain discipline and shore up their back line after this blip. Lawrence Rashid was coming into the game with some deft touches going forward as UEA got back on form. Sean Cullum forced a good save and Grant tested the visiting keeper’s concentration with a tame effort.
Bloore netted his hat-trick shortly before the whistle to make it 6-2 going into the final quarter.
Club President Bloore’s goal really seemed to knock the stuffing out of Notts’ brief renaissance with UEA running riot in the fourth quarter. After a wild miss from the lively Cullum, UEA were at their free-flowing best. Latvian Kurts Auza made it 7-2 before Bloore was adjudged by the referee to have not quite poked over the line after Notts protests.
Defender Charlie Albuery had to be alert to cut out some pacy Notts runs down the right before Tibudan added the icing to the cake and secured his own hat-trick to send UEA through to the next round with a final score of 8-2.
In fact, UEA had chances to add even more gloss to the scoreline before the final whistle. As the Eagles went through the gears Owen Wilson was a lynchpin, coolly linking play. Chris Groom shot just over after a superb run, the hard working Grant went close to a deserved goal from range and Vickers cradled upfield before being denied.
Against a much-improved Notts team, this game was never going to be another 19-0 like when the sides last met in the first league game of the season in October. However, UEA will be pleased to have dominated against a physical Notts in their last home game of the season. Next in the cup they will travel to either Oxford Brookes or Lincoln on the 28th with the final, should UEA win again, taking place a week later on neutral territory.
Bloore, who scooped Man of the Match, told Concrete: “It was a very scrappy game in poor weather conditions but our continued effort and discipline helped us keep control, and win convincingly. We look to improve for the semi-final.”
He reflected: “I am elated to score my first competitive hat-trick since starting the sport three years ago.”
On the next Colney Lane pitch, UEA’s women’s firsts secured a walkover for their fourth league win of the campaign, netting freely against bottom of the table De Montfort to lead 43-1 when time was called. As-yet-pointless De Montfort had only left Leicestershire with a team of six, with UEA players filling in to make up the rest of their side.
The women’s seconds also brought home three points to ensure a triple-victory for the Eagles’ teams. They claimed an impressive away scalp of Leicester seconds 12-6 in their final match of the season, the last ever for several of the squad’s senior players including skipper Taylor Bennett. Alex Plant was the team’s leading light, finding the net seven times, with Man of the Match shared between Octavia Pither and the captain. This capped an impressive debut season for UEA seconds which has seen them be one of Midlands 3A’s surprise packages.