University of Leeds 1sts 1 – 3 Beckett 1sts
UNI’s hockey men’s 1sts lost 3-1 away to local rivals Beckett despite an attacking second-half display, in a match watched by two-time Ashes-winning cricket and Leeds Beckett graduate Jonny Bairstow.
The game got off to an even start, with both teams zipping the ball about nicely on an overcast day. However, it was Uni that enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, with a few timely interceptions preventing the visitors from going through on goal.
Will Kenney-Herbert and Ed de Blaby were marshalling the back line well, helping instigate many of the visitors’ most promising attacks. However, Beckett were top of the league for a reason, and came into this encounter with four wins and one draw to their name. They bagged nine goals against St. Andrews in their last league outing, and looked intent on filling their boots this time around. Pol Soms was proving particularly elusive, and he was definitely the hosts’ main attacking influence, with his tight ball control and ability to dart past opponents proving particularly useful.
The breakthrough came midway through the first period, as Beckett’s Will Root broke away before playing a neat one-two with Matt Gibson. The onrushing Soms was steaming around the outside, receiving the ball on the edge of the circle. It looked as if the chance had gone as he had seemingly taken the ball too wide; however, he maintained his composure to slam a diagonal shot into keeper Savvas Hadjigeorgiou’s left-hand corner.
To their credit, the boys in green regained a foothold in the match, making inroads into Beckett’s half, with Matt Proctor in the thick of the action. However, the hosts were still posing a very real attacking threat, and they doubled their lead soon after. George Wilkinson went on a mazy dribble, and was deemed to have been halted illegally. However, the resulting pass from the 23-yard line was intercepted by the table-toppers, and another menacing run forward saw space open up for Root, who made no mistake.
A superb raking crossfield pass almost allowed Uni to mount a quick response, but the team could not keep the ball in-play, with the half-time whistle blowing shortly afterwards.
The second-half continued in a similar vein to how the first ended, as Beckett won a penalty corner and although Gibson’s attempted was well-saved by Hadjigeorgiou, the ball was then shovelled on to Adam Geldard-Williams, who flicked into the unguarded net. In the blink of an eye it was almost 4-0, as a ferocious drive by Harry Lankfer was parried superbly by Hadjigeorgiou.
Things went further downhill for Uni, as Wilkinson was given a yellow card and was forced to sit out for a few minutes. However, the Gryphons began to enjoy a period of sustained possession for the first time in a while, with the team enforcing a series of penalty-corners, with Will Flett’s powerful shot being thwarted superbly by Will Rutter with the second of these attempts. Uni were continuing to knock on the door, but Beckett’s defending was stoic. Another flying stop from Rutter prevented Flett from a deserved goal, and it was to their immense credit that the Gryphons never stopped running. However, Soms still provided a threat on the break, and his stinging shot cannoned off the legs of Hadjigeorgiou.
Then, the moment Uni were waiting for. Max Evans was deemed to have been fouled as he went through on goal, with Tom Precious emphatically sending the keeper the wrong way. A retake was ordered, but this did not disrupt Precious’ focus, as his penalty stroke was placed coolly in the bottom right-hand corner.
Leeds enjoyed a flurry of opportunities in the closing stages, including another penalty stroke, but they were unable to break the steely Beckett resistance.
Overall, the outcome was disappointing, but the team can be heartened by a bustling second-half display against a team that are firm favourites for promo.
Featured image: Jack Roberts