On a bitterly cold late Wednesday afternoon at Weetwood, Leeds Hockey Mens 3s managed a highly creditable 1-1 draw with Hull 1s, although the hosts were left wondering what might have been.
Hull started the brighter, neat combination play and passing often allowing them to break into the Leeds area and look to create opportunities. However, the Leeds defence was standing firm in the opening minutes, and even when Hull did manage to break through, the reliable figure of keeper Tom Mclean was in the way, on several occasions producing an excellent block.
Leeds slowly started to grow into the game, and worked on getting their passing game going. They would attempt to draw the Hull players out of their defensive shape, before attacking at speed and catching them out. Several times the ball flashed dangerously across the visitors area, but no one quite managed to get the decisive touch from a Leeds point of view. Jack Fairs was having a very good game, and several times his trickery in evading a tackle helped set up a chance for the hosts.
However, on 17 minutes Leeds were deservedly rewarded for their pressure with the opening goal. A neat move eventually broke down on the edge of the D, but their persistence in preventing Hull from breaking out got its rewards when the ball eventually fell to Tom Slaney only a few yards out, who gleefully drove the ball home. Leeds held on to the lead until half time with minimum fuss, and after the break initially looked to extend their advantage further, with a couple of dangerous short corners not quite leading to that all-important second goal.
At the interval, captain Matt Shock was vocal that the lead should be well protected. As time wore on, Hull slowly started to get a foothold in the game, as Leeds started to tire slightly. Mclean was being called on more and more as the match entered the last 15 minutes, with several spectacular saves from Hull short corners. Leeds did have several chances of their own to extend their lead on the break, but poor decision making and desperate Hull defending frustratingly prevented them putting the game to bed. And the home team were made to pay in cruel fashion for these missed chances.
Despite Hull losing a player on a 5 minute yellow card for persistently arguing with a referee, Leeds were being forced to sit deep and were giving away more and more free hits around the edge of the area. Right in the last seconds of the match, after the referee had signalled last play, one of these bore fruit for Hull, as the ball ricocheted around the area, with no Leeds player ever quite being able to get the ball clear. Eventually, the inevitable happened.
With the last act of the match, a Hull player managed to latch onto the ball and slam it past Mclean and into the goal, sparking wild celebrations on their bench. A cruel late blow for Leeds then, but the ending should not mask the overall high quality of their performance, against Hulls first team. Concentration and composure in the last few minutes will no doubt be the watchwords in the 3s next game against Newcastle.
Image courtesy of Carlotta Grimaldi