Crunch Time for EUMHC 4th XI
Adam Lax reports on a season defining week
Promotion into West Premier 2 is secure, the BUCS league has been brought home, but for the EUMHC 4th XI, the season is far from over.
By Wednesday 21st February, BUCS gold in the form of the Western Conference Cup could be displayed proudly for all to see, or it could all be for nothing. For the first time in the club’s history, the 4th XI travel to Glamorgan in search of glory, only time will tell if the perfect season could go one step better.
Following a closely fought 3-2 victory over the University of Bath 3rd XI, Captain James Morrison’s green army strolled into BUCS 1A, although the pressure of an intensive schedule almost took its toll as the league entered its concluding week. A 2-1 defeat to Southampton Solent 1st XI on Monday 12th threw a spanner into the works, the three point lead at the top of the table appearing fragile as Bath travelled to the Nando’s Sports Park, with the winner taking all, and the loser, leaving with nothing.
Exeter conceded within the opening ten minutes as a swift counter attack against the run of play came close to forcing a semblance of hockey out of a side that had the world at its feet only a week before. Inspired by the tireless running of Scott Woolley, Exeter struck back through a close range Max Kempe finish. Bath, however, were not going to sink without a fight.
Some slack defensive work forced a double save from Adam Lax in the Exeter goal, but the ball fell to a yellow jersey and Exeter’s promotion hopes were up in the air once more. At 2-1 down, the half time words of inspiration from Morrison were the most important of his tenure as Captain, with the senior players in the side producing a pulsating Second Half of hockey that proved why the 4th XI have been the team to beat this season.
Sam Beaman finally did his immense talent the justice it has deserved, distributing a fine through ball to Woolley, subsequently finding Phil Cuming on the back post to place the ball in the Bath goal and provide the assembled masses with the cheer Exeter’s commitment and passion justified since the break. Injuries to Kempe, Charlie Brooker and Andrew Gale ensured Exeter were clutching at straws throughout the second half, however the work of James Brand at full back and the engine room of Michael Tomkins, Will Clapp and Richard Strong in the middle of the park meant Morrison’s side held strong as they looked to gain the ascendancy.
With the score level at 2-2, the incisive runs of Clapp and exquisite distribution of Tomkins secured a Penalty Corner for Exeter; the Bath goalkeeper was powerless to resist Matt Marshall, hurling his flick into the roof of the net and securing Exeter’s place at the top of the table with the clock ticking down.
Bath pressed higher up the pitch, denying Exeter any room to distribute from the back, with successive Penalty Corners defended by a fine save from Morrison on the goal line, and an outstretched foot from Lax. As Bath tired, Exeter were able to dictate the tempo of the game in its dying embers; the whistle blew, the Cava flowed, but the team knew the hard work was far from over.
Wednesday 21st is the day to stand up and be counted, or for the 4th XI to forever hold their silence.