EUMHC vs Loughborough: A Preview

Adam Lax looks ahead to ‘El Clasico’

EHL Exeter exeter uni Hockey Loughborough University of Exeter

Hot on the heels of their BUCS Gold success in Sheffield last week, EUMHC 1st XI face a bigger challenge that could mark the side as the standout student sporting outfit in the country.

The England Hockey League Premier Division is the highest standard of club hockey played in the country; Olympians past, present and future will travel to the Nando’s Sports Park this Sunday with one aim in mind: survival, and survival at the pinnacle of hockey.

At 2pm on Sunday 25th January, one of the country’s greatest sporting rivalries will be rekindled, a rematch of the BUCS finals of 2010 and 2011, but with much more at stake. For Exeter, this Sunday will define the careers of many not just as athletes, but as men. A win provides Exeter with a real chance of maintaining their Premier League status for another season, and attracting the best hockey players in the country to the South-West.

Top level sport is readily available to watch in the city we are all proud to call our second home, but never before has a student side represented Exeter at the height of club as well as University achievement in its chosen sport. For sporting enthusiasts, and those who just enjoy an afternoon in the sunshine watching athletes at the pinnacle of their physical prowess, free entry at the Nando’s Sports Park on Sunday makes the decision a no brainer.

But is it worth the effort? Exeter have already secured a crucial win over Loughborough in the BUCS Semi Finals in early March, however the rivalry has been renewed with our polytechnic cousins sitting comfortably in Mid Table in the EHL. With one game remaining in the season, Bowdon are currently rock bottom on 13 points, in the automatic relegation position. Exeter sit above them on 14 points in 9th place, still with the threat of the relegation play offs looming over their heads.

A win on Sunday could see the Green Army climb over Southgate, sitting pretty on 15 points just ahead of them in the table. A loss would be unthinkable, but with the boisterous support only an Exeter crowd can bring, Captain Olly Deasy’s side are confident of a performance.

As for recent form, Exeter have undergone somewhat of a revival of late, the early season promise of a 3-2 win over a Richard Mantell inspired Reading could have been the sign of things to come, however Exeter have left it until March to secure their first victory in the EHL since October, the run of form since the crushing 6-1 defeat away to East Grinstead has been nothing short of remarkable. However, a morale sapping masterclass handed out by the household names of Ashley Jackson and Barry Middleton has kick started Exeter’s season once more.

The same week Loughborough slipped up away to Southgate, a 53rd minute winner from Josh Godfrey against European contenders Cannock secured a 4-3 Victory. A 2-0 win over Southgate the following week, backed up by a draw against Surbiton last weekend means survival is more than just a distant dream.

Looking ahead to the game itself, the key matchup will undoubtedly be between Loughborough’s Scottish Olympian, Alistair McGregor, and Tom Carson, Exeter’s leading goal scorer and Penalty Corner specialist.

McGregor was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 for Great Britain; he has since earned 82 international caps for Scotland and 20 for GB, and is set to secure his number one jersey for London 2012 after starring during the qualifying Campaign in Chile.

Carson on the other hand is a current Under 21 international, and is the fourth leading goal scorer in the Premier Division, with 11 goals to his name. He forms a potent attacking trio with South African World Cup star Ian Haley, and the hat trick hero from Sheffield, Nick Cooper. If Exeter’s defence can hold firm against Loughborough’s fast paced and exciting brand of hockey, the side have enough firepower to turn Sunday’s encounter into a classic.

So why not come and watch EUMHC secure their spot at the pinnacle of English hockey?

Entry is free, the match promises to be electrifying, check your News Feed on Facebook, or follow #exeterhockey and #elclasico on Twitter.

In the words of Archie Griffen, ‘It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog’.

Bring the noise on Sunday, and see just how this dog will put up one almighty fight.