Relegated Men’s Hockey I fell to a 3-2 defeat to Nottingham III in the bright Wednesday sunshine at the Sportspark. Despite a late flurry, the damage was inflicted upon the hosts by the visitors just before and after half time.
UEA had taken an early lead, Joe Broadbent slotting home from a short corner after 14 minutes, Nottingham having failed to react quick enough to close down the space. The visitors’ tempestuous attitude was clear from the off, with the umpires’ decisions subject to constant questioning.
However, from the opening goal onwards, Nottingham were on top, forcing a series of good saves from UEA ‘keeper Tom Palmer. With seven minutes to go until half time, the visitors’ pressure told, and a corner was worked across the packed D and tucked into the far corner of the UEA goal. The away side were camped out in their opponents’ half, and but for a few wasted corners, could have taken the lead. As it was, the two sides went into the break level, despite a late first half Nottingham flurry.
After the interval, UEA managed to hold out at the back for eight minutes, but their resistance was broken when the ball was spread across the D and fired home past the helpless Palmer for 2-1. Nottingham ought to have extended their lead a few minutes later, and were clearly on top midway through the second half. UEA were reduced to ambitious wing play and sporadic breaks, some of which, particularly a jinking run by Adam Wedlake, were unfortunate not to bear fruit.
The visitors proceeded to press home their advantage, and Palmer once again had no chance, the Nottingham player’s dubious ball control not preventing him making it 3-1 in the 55th minute. UEA’s opponents took to minor showboating to illustrate their dominance, and this tactic was inches from yielding a 4-1 lead. With 12 minutes left on the clock, however, Stuart Gagan shot through a gap at the far side of the D to reduce the arrears. Sadly, the home side, having weathered the Nottingham storm, were unable to find the equalising goal, and wound up on the end of a narrow 3-2 defeat.
After the game, Men’s Hockey president Lewis Wilkins said: “This season has been a peculiar one. After getting promotion last year we always knew we’d have a hard season, but we had the belief we’d stay up. Unfortunately, we’ve had difficulties getting our strongest squad to away games, leading to some rather humbling defeats on the road. “Despite that, if we would have won today, we would have only been one point from safety, which would have been remarkable, considering. I think next year we’ll be genuinely looking to battle for promotion once again to get back into this league, particularly since our Saturday team first XI gained promotion this year and will be playing in a higher and more competitive league.
“Yesterday was a performance that we can take heart from, as it showed that we can compete in this league, and are not just the “whipping” boys. I felt as the game went on Nottingham became more dominant as we had to chase the game, which was tough under the heat and limited substitutes. Although Nottingham were probably slightly the better team, particularly in the second half, I would not have ruled out a late equaliser.”
Photo: Greg Mann.