Loughborough Hockey Women’s 1s vs Nottingham 1s
On a bitterly cold Wednesday 4th February, the women’s hockey 1st team did battle with local rivals Nottingham on the Water-based pitch. With Loughborough in 3rd place and Nottingham one place behind, this match seriously mattered to the league standings of the two sides.
Loughborough had the initial push but lost possession early on. It did not take long for the home side to retrieve the ball from the opposition, and Loughborough capitalised on this chance as Beth Bingham set up Kim Leiper to score within the first couple of minutes. The home side seemed to carry the momentum of their brilliant start into the second period of play as they almost instantly won back possession and scored their second goal. Although Nottingham were playing a strong game, they did not look like they could match Loughborough in terms of overall quality.
After dropping into a rut, Nottingham went on the attack but could not convert a string of shots on goal into successful points. Loughborough went on the counter attack but neither side could get through the others defence as both sides had turned up the intensity. The increased pressure led to more mistakes being made by both teams, passes were intercepted, runs were cut off, and shots flew wide of goal. The visitors were the first side to break, as the Nottingham defence lost its former intensity and surprisingly Loughborough struggled to convert their opportunities on goal.
Both Loughborough and Nottingham were finding success in the form of short passes as many attempts to make quick ground with long-balls were cut off. Through a successful series of short passes, Loughborough set up a one-on-one between Josephine Blunt and the Nottingham keeper. The keeper chose to run at Blunt and in wiping her out Loughborough were awarded a penalty. The penalty was converted, much to the excitement of the crowd that had gathered to support the home side.
With the clock closing in on the half-time mark, there was little to trouble the Loughborough keeper, however both sides were struggling to find players with their passes. In the final moments of the half, Nottingham were awarded two close penalty corners but both failed to penetrate the Loughborough defence. The girls left the pitch for the first half with the score-line at 3-0.
After the break, Nottingham made a strong start, clearly spurred on by their half-time talk. They dominated the first few minutes of the second half and were strong in defence when possession was not theirs, this was important to their relative success in this half because Loughborough came at them hard. After a period of strong competition, both sides quietened down as possession frequently turned over in the midfield and neither team could make an inroad.
Loughborough resorted back to short passes and were able to test the Nottingham keeper on a couple of occasions but could not hit the back of the net. The visitors counter attacked and earned a short corner. The Loughborough keeper initially saved the attempt on goal but could not stop the rebound that moved the score to 3-1. As the final whistle drew ever closer, the game looked as though it well and truly belonged to the Loughborough girls. This feeling was confirmed as Ellie Tait flicked the ball into the net to score the fourth and final Loughborough goal that secured them the match at 4-1 to the home side.
Loughborough Men’s Hockey 1s vs Nottingham 1s
Following the great success of the women’s team in the previous match, the men had a lot to live up to. Play started relatively slowly as possession changed frequently and neither side could form any kind of domination over their opposition. The ball moved back and forth across the pitch as the two sides sparred against each other, but neither could make an immediate impression.
Nottingham were the first side to take charge as they forged a number of attacks on the Loughborough goal after breaking their defence successfully. Although the home defence put up a fight, it was almost inevitable that Nottingham were going to score as they out muscled the Loughborough players. Nottingham went 1-0 up in the first fifteen minutes. Following the initial goal, Nottingham maintained their intensity and really turned the screws as they tested the Loughborough boys methodically.
Things looked to still be going the way of the visitors as they were awarded a penalty corner, but the Loughborough keeper managed to get a boot on the ball to kick it wide. Loughborough weren’t as lucky the second time as the men in green found the net taking the score up to 2-0 Nottingham. Where many people’s heads would have sunk in reaction to this, Loughborough were spurred on and in the last few seconds of the first half, they were awarded a penalty corner. To the excitement of those watching, the ball sailed past the posts to set the score at 2-1 to Nottingham at half-time.
After the break in play, Loughborough dominated possession and looked as though they were the superior team. The control of play did not last long and both teams started to lose possession frequently. Despite struggling to retain possession for a long period of time, Loughborough managed to get the ball forwards and put pressure on the Nottingham defence. With the momentum in their favour, Loughborough scored a wonderful goal from out wide, to equalise. Considering the emphatic start that Nottingham had made, it was unsurprising that their players were getting visibly frustrated on the pitch.
In the dying minutes of the match, both sides seemed frantic to make a final impact on the score-line to take the three points. The last fifteen minutes were very entertaining as shots flew wide and hard tackles were made in desperation. The last shot to be made by Loughborough was met by a gasp from the crowd as it just missed the posts and crashed into the fencing behind. The final whistle went with the two sides in equilibrium at 2-2, taking away a point each.
By David Boyden