Sport | Hockey – Gryphons grab late draw

Leeds Gryphons managed to salvage a late point at Weetwood on Wednesday in what was a tense and nervy affair.

Leeds went into the game against Newcastle knowing that a win would all but secure a play off place, with league leaders Durham 2s unable to be promoted. However, with the rain streaming down onto the already slippery Weetwood surface, it became clear that this would not be a straightforward task.

The early exchanges were frantic, with loose passes from both sides and precision found lacking. Despite the tentative start, Newcastle managed to earn a foothold in the game, earning the first short corner of the game. The visitors’ initial effort was charged down well by Simon Hanley before the rebound was easily saved by goalkeeper Will Green.

The importance of the game to both sides was evident as play charged from end to end without the creation of any clear cut opportunities. Leeds lacked any sustained periods of possession but looked threatening on the counter attack through half-back Will Kenney-Herbert.

Eventually Leeds’ pace on the break earned the Gryphons their first short corner of the match. Hanley’s drag flick was fired powerfully towards the bottom right corner of the goal but was well turned away by the Newcastle post man.

With the Gryphons continuing to struggle with their link up play, they became guilty of holding onto the ball too long, dribbling into contact too often. Frustration began to set in, both teams trading stick tackles and verbals. Newcastle’s impressive first half display was almost rewarded with a goal on the stroke of half time as a free ball was seized upon in the Leeds D, only for the effort to be fired over the bar. The miss was met with relief by the Leeds players as was the subsequent half time break.

The second period saw Leeds take control of the game, looking more assured on the ball but still struggling to create any concrete outcomes. Newcastle retreated further and further into their own half, with almost all 11 men in their own 23. This Leeds pressure took its toll on the visitors as Newcastle received a yellow card for an aerial offence.

Newcastle’s early intensity now seemed to be waning as Leeds fashioned a few half chances through Alfie Jones and Ali Mannering. Despite these signs of promise from the Gryphons, Newcastle were able to break away, passing a dangerous ball across the face of goal which was turned into the top right corner by a waiting forward. It was a goal that came against the run of play and split the game wide open.

Leeds responded by throwing all their resources into attack, leaving them vulnerable to the Newcastle counter attack. A smart, reaction save from Green and a goal-line clearance from Kenney-Herbert kept Leeds in touch, giving them one last chance to rescue a result from the contest.

With two minutes remaining, Ali Mannering made a powerful run down the right flank, turning a dangerous pass across the D which found its way to Josh Mailing at the back post. The left-half took a touch to bring the ball under his control before pushing the ball into an empty net.

The delight of the late goal was soon replaced by feelings of relief as the Gryphons escaped from what was a poor performance with a vital point. The push for promotion back to BUCS Premier will now have to wait a little longer, but it is a game that could have ended so much worse for the home side.

Jack Fairs

Image courtesy of Leeor Ohayon

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