The University of Sheffield’s Men’s Hockey 1s came close to completing a memorable comeback as they lost 3-2 against a clinical University of Manchester side.
A game against the league’s early pacesetters was always going to be a tough test for the team in black and gold. The visitors travelled to Sheffield as the team to beat in the Northern 1A league having recorded a 100% winning start to the new campaign.
Sheffield’s task was made even more difficult after conceding two goals in the first-half. Rowan Poots put the visitors ahead inside the opening 10 minutes, before Tom Crackles scored a few minutes before half-time.
It was, however, Sheffield who put the away side under some early pressure; but the hosts were unable to take advantage of their series of early penalty corners. Sheffield dominated possession in the early exchanges, which saw Martin Andrews fire wide, as Manchester looked to hit the hosts on the counter-attack.
A clinical attacking move was how broke the deadlock in the 9th minute. A Manchester pass split the Sheffield defence and Poots made no mistake in putting the visitors ahead with a reverse-stick shot from close-range.
Jack Coulson and Will Rowley both went close for Sheffield; but the hosts were unable to create a clear opportunity in the first-half. While Sheffield had failed to take advantage of their early penalty corners, Manchester made theirs count as Tom Crackles doubled the visitor’s lead just before half-time.
The away side were awarded a penalty corner after Lewis Garland fouled one of Manchester’s attackers as he burst through on goal. Tom Crackles capitalised on the opportunity and gave the away side a two-goal lead at half-time. Crackles’ low, drilled shot found a way through the crowded penalty area, before finding the bottom corner of Matt Fetzer’s net.
Sheffield were the better side in the second-half and deservedly pulled a goal back through Gavin Haseler. Will Galloway evaded several challenges as he advanced into the penalty area, before passing the ball to Haseler who fired low into the net to give the home side hope of a comeback.
Sheffield had chances to draw back level as Haseler saw his reverse-stick shot saved, while Martin Andrews’ shot was straight at the Manchester goalkeeper. It was, however, Manchester who scored the next goal to give themselves a safety cushion heading into the final minutes.
Tom Lush scooped the ball over a Sheffield head on the right-flank to James Bennett. He advanced, before passing the ball to Reece Jackett, who cut inside and fired past Matt Fetzer to extend the visitors advantage.
Nick Hale scored for Sheffield with a powerful driven shot from a penalty corner, but with 15 seconds left on the clock there was not enough time for the hosts to complete a comeback and take a share of the spoils.
Men’s 1s captain Jack Culmer told Forge Sport after the final whistle: “It was a tough ask to comeback from 2-0 down to come back into the game. I thought we controlled the game and for 70 minutes we were the better side. Manchester showed us that we need to be clinical to get out of this league; we had chances to win the game, we gave away some sloppy goals and Manchester came here and did their job.”
A special mention must go to Joe Kopka, who played the game with a broken hand.