Last year’s champions Nottingham were knocked out by Loughborough, 4-1 in this year’s quarter-finals in a riveting game that cemented Loughborough’s dominance and takes them a step closer to the final.
The late afternoon setting cast the pitch in sunset before the chills of night air engulfed the crowds. Loughborough started the game with pace and excitement and despite a loose air shot, had great control over the ball. A Nottingham attempt to move down the wing was put to a stop by a great tackle from Ed Horler. Murray Collins’ skilled dribbling led to a penalty corner that resulted in a goal by Luke Taylor and an early point on the board, 1-0.
Nottingham responded by an attempted rush right into the Loughborough circle but could not get past the defence. They kept the ball for a short while but could not hold possession due to the likes of Jonti Griffiths and Dan Faulkner whose controlled passes saw Nottingham struggling to keep up. Attacking play in Nottingham’s half forced another penalty corner. Taken by Rhys Doherty and smashed into the backboard by Ed Horler. Loughborough extended their lead 2-0, much to the home crowd’s jubilation.
Nottingham knew they needed to reply soon but they lost accuracy in their passes. As the game heated up close to half-time so did tempers and as a result one of the Nottingham players was blue carded. Loughborough kept up the tempo and Ed Greaves showed great control over the ball. Another penalty corner taken by Max Cerulus gifted the ball to a prowling Luke Taylor who delivered a perfect shot, square in the goal and adding to the tally, 3-0.
Goal-less, growing concern finally managed to get the away side into Loughborough’s circle with some real force behind their hits. Their first contribution to the board was unpolished, but the strike and deflection off the right post was a goal nonetheless, score now 3-1. The remaining few minutes of the first half saw a good bit of stick work from both teams and Loughborough had another two decent attempts at goal, however both fell wide.
The second half kicked off with renewed vigour and Loughborough’s speedy passing saw them storm down the pitch and the ball thunder off Luke Taylor’s stick and crash into the backboard. This goal completed Taylor’s hattrick and took the score to 4-1. The rest of the game was riddled with missed opportunity, mainly for Nottingham who managed to set up numerous chances for themselves but could not see play through and were left with a fruitless second half. Loughborough still managed to keep up the tempo and Rhys Doherty took a reverse strike at goal that unfortunately fell wide. The last minutes of the game left Nottingham in a ‘Hail Mary’ position. Desperate, their attempted strikes, which now noticeably lacked the force and control that the Loughborough side had, were firmly stopped at kicked away by goalkeeper Toby Reynolds-Cotterill. Final score: 4-1.
Last year the Loughborough Men’s 1st XI made it to the finals but fell short at the last hurdle. With defeat over the current title holders, they are now only another two wins away from being this year’s champions. Catch them next in BUCS action in the semis on Wednesday 2nd March.