Loughborough Men’s Hockey 1s vs Oxford Brookes University
On February 18th, Loughborough Men’s 1st team played Oxford Brookes on the Water-base pitch. With a solid crowd of spectators, even the sun decided to pay a visit to oversee the home side in their Last 16 match of the BUCS Hockey Championship. The winner of this match would go through to play away to Exeter in the quarter-finals.
Loughborough started the match and were impressive from the whistle with a string of short passes that made it very hard for Oxford Brookes to take possession. When the away side did manage to seize the ball, it never lasted long as Loughborough were able to regain possession on every occasion. It was obvious that Loughborough were the dominant of the two sides but they could not break through the Oxford Brookes defence to make their hard work count.
After an ambitious play, Loughborough were awarded a penalty corner but once again the home side were denied by the defence of their opposition. This was shortly followed by another chance on goal that saw the ball fly wide. With a high level of pressure from Loughborough, it constantly felt like there was going to be a goal; for much of the play there were no men, other than the keeper, in the Loughborough half with all men committed to the up field offence. A further two penalty corners were saved in quick succession by the Oxford Brookes keeper, much to the dismay of the increasingly sized crowd of spectators.
The home side were passing better than I have ever seen them, this may in part be due to the lack of pressure from the opponents. Oxford Brookes seemed reluctant to sit on Loughborough’s defence and allowed them to pass freely between themselves. When the away players did go in for tackles, they were frequently out-classed. It was the cooperation of the Loughborough players that made them stand out against the competition and on several occasions they made breaks that looked sure to lead to a goal.
With play staying exclusively in the Brookes half for increasing periods of time, Loughborough found a second wind with a few failed attempts on goal but eventually the ball found the top right corner of the net to put the Loughborough boys 1-0 up. Straight after play restarted, the home team had a close call as Brookes made a rare appearance in the Loughborough shooting circle. After losing possession once again, Oxford Brookes could only watch as Loughborough counter attacked and scored their second goal in two minutes. At this point in the report, a lesser man would use a cliché about waiting for a bus.
Following the second goal the pace of the game and mood of the spectators lifted but Loughborough were still very much in control as they missed an opportunity to go 3-0 up on the strike of halftime; they would have to settle with 2-0 however, as the halftime whistle sounded.
It was obvious from the first five minutes of the second half that Loughborough’s lust for goals was not over as they played a gritty game to set up opportunities and defy their opponents. Oxford Brookes took advantage of a lapse in concentration from Loughborough to get a clear shot on goal but to the relief of those watching the ball was struck wide of the posts. It was then the turn of Loughborough to take advantage of the opposition’s mistake as they virtually walked around the Brookes defence. The defending keeper left his line to cut off the attacker’s angle but Ed Horler coolly flicked the ball around him and took the scoring shot with no pressure from the defence.
With Oxford Brookes essentially out of the game, not only due to the score line but also their lack of passion and intensity, Loughborough had free range in the Brookes half. With a shot sent flying out of the park, the game was reset and Loughborough almost instantly capitalised with Dan Faulkner scoring an absolute screamer from a shot sent into the top right corner of the Oxford Brookes goal from out wide.
With the final whistle drawing closer, both sides were starting to make mistakes but again it was the Brookes defence that was really tested. Loughborough were dribbling past defenders like they were not even there but could not get past the keeper. The keeper did eventually slip up as he attempted to take matters into his own hands and get the ball out of the circle but missed the ball, allowing a Loughborough player to pass to a team mate that deflected the ball into the goal for the fifth and final time of the match.
The last hope of any form of redemption for Oxford Brookes came in the form of a late penalty corner, this fizzed out as a good save from the keeper maintained his clean sheet. Loughborough will be very pleased with such an empathic win to take them into the next round but join a prestigious list of fellow quarter-finalists on the February 25th.
I don’t know a great deal about hockey but I do know that if this had been a match on FIFA, a Facebook apology would be in order.
By David Boyden