Late Drama for Men’s Hockey in First Home Game

Adam Lax on EUMHC’s difficult first game in the National West Conference.

The 1st XI continued their National League campaign this Sunday at home to Cheltenham, and looked to have completed the task at hand until a last gasp equaliser spoiled the party atmosphere at the Sports Park.

A hundred strong crowd welcomed the return of the 2012 BUCS Champions to the newly re-laid Olympic Standard turf; were it not for Cheltenham’s predatory instinct with the last touch of the game, Exeter could be sitting proudly at the top of the National West Conference. However the campaign for promotion back to England Hockey’s top flight took a turn for the worse, as Exeter were unable to turn their dominance into goals.

Boosted by the return of South African Olympic star Ian Haley, along with new signing and England under 21 International Olly Clarke from Durham University, Exeter fielded their strongest side of the season to date. All appeared to be going to plan, as Josh Godfrey struck twice in the first half, and Nick Cooper’s energetic play down the flanks struck fear into the Cheltenham rear-guard.

Andrew Ross had a reverse stick effort well saved by Cheltenham’s keeper, whilst his counterpart Andrew Miller enjoyed a sedate first half at the other end. There were chances aplenty for Ed Carson and Haley, with the 2-0 scoreline at half time flattering Cheltenham’s competitive ability.

However a different side emerged after the break; Exeter were reduced to breakaway efforts as the opposition were able to keep the ball well around the back, without affording Exeter the time or space of the previous half. Cheltenham earned their just reward, and pulled the scoreline back to 2-1 in the 59th minute. Ill-discipline crept into the ranks, with a yellow card for Myles Locke only bettered by a warning handed out to the tempestuous assembled crowd from the Match Officials.

The atmosphere turned from entertaining to heated in an instant, with Cheltenham fired up by taunts from the crowd and boosted by Locke’s dismissal. Andrew Miller was called in to rescue the now bedraggled University side as the game drew to its conclusion.

The visitors would still have the final say, as the reward of a 69th minute penalty corner drew silence from all four corners of the ground. The injection was clean, the shot saved, however Cheltenham were quickest to react, firing the ball past the hapless Miller, sparking scenes of delirium on the visitors bench, and agony for the home players and supporters alike. Nevertheless, Sunday afternoon was a showcase of top level National League sport at its very best, and there promises to be similar entertainment next weekend, as Exeter welcome high flying Team Bath in their next encounter.

The local rivalry has produced some enthralling encounters in years gone by, and following Sunday’s turnout, the notorious Exeter crowd can well and truly earn its reputation as the side’s 12th man.

Saturday 13 October is the date for the diary, 12:30 at the Sports Park for Exeter’s biggest game of the season thus far.

Until next time, follow the club on Twitter or like us on Facebook for the latest news, fixture details, and live commentary from all home games. We would also like to thank our sponsors for the 2012/13 season, Berwin Leighton Paisner, without whom our continued success on and off the field would not be possible.