Ben Stupples reports on the latest EUMHC action from Nandos Arena: the quarter-final of the BUCS Conference Cup clash between EUMHC 4s and Bath 3s.
University of Exeter Mens’ 4s have made their way into the semi-finals of the BUCS Conference Cup after a thrilling 7 – 5 victory over University of Bath 3s.
Both sides weaved the ball around each other over the opening minutes with every pass seeming to reach their desired destination; and the gradual ebb and flow of possession showed little signs of the goal frenzy that ensued over the rest of the match.
Although University of Exeter came out of the hard-fought encounter as the eventual victors, University of Bath opened their goal scoring account first as they broke incisively through midfield on a swift counter-attack that left University of Exeter’s defence outnumbered and helpless to prevent the ball passing Adam Lax in goal.
University of Exeter then began the first goal scoring rampage of the game: 3 goals inside 10 minutes – 2 from drag-flicks by the ever-dependable Matt Marshall and the other from a well-worked move that began inside University of Exeter’s own half – meant that the men in green held a 3 – 1 advantage as they entered the closing stages of the second half.
Stunned by their opponent’s response after conceding the first goal, the precise passing that had typified University of Bath’s performance over the first few minutes of the game suddenly became frantic attempts to move the ball into any vacant space.
University of Exeter capitalised on Bath’s dearth of confidence as they won a penalty corner and were then awarded a penalty flick for a foul by Bath on the goal line, which Matt Marshall coolly stepped up and slotted into the top-left hand corner to complete a first-half hat trick.
Controversy then made a cameo appearance towards the end of the half as University of Bath, much to Exeter’s disbelief, were awarded a penalty corner for an alleged stick-tackle inside the D, which Bath then converted to make the score at half-time 4 – 2.
Some may have thought during the break that University of Exeter held a firm grip on the game’s outcome with a two goal advantage but University of Bath, invigorated by their captain’s animated pep-talk, burst onto the pitch after the second half and scored two goals in quick succession to level the scores at 4 – 4.
It was now University of Exeter’s turn to be stunned by their opposition’s performance and responding well to their sudden setback was vital to their chances of snatching victory from University of Bath’s grasps, which is exactly what they did.
After a quick-paced and penetrating move that dismantled Bath defence, Phil Cuming tapped in for University of Exeter and the resulting celebration of sliding across the astro on his knees whilst emitting an adrenaline-fuelled roar towards the on-looking crowd characterised the determination of the Exeter team.
They always say you are most vulnerable in a game after you have scored, though, and that proved to be true for University of Exeter as they conceded from a penalty corner barely a minute after edging into the lead.
With the score at 5 -5, a staggering 10 goals was now shared equally between the two teams whilst tension grew and tempers flared as the chance of claiming victory shrunk with every passing second.
University of Exeter were then awarded a penalty corner and, once again, Matt Marshall sent the ball fizzing through the air into Bath’s net, which broke the score line stalemate and spurred Max Kemp onto scoring another goal for Exeter a few moments later to make the final score an eye-widening 7 – 5.
University of Exeter 4s Captain, Morry Morrison, was jubilant after the game: “We are still on for winning the treble! That was a great performance from the guys. We also played some really good hockey during some phases of the game. I’m proud of our performance today and we can now look forward to the semi-finals. Bring them on!”