Almost triple triumph
Jasper Joyce reviews an action-packed fortnight of Hockey successes which ended in heart-break
by Jasper Joyce
Friday 12th October 2012, 15:57 BST
With visions of that heroic 5-3 defeat over their Dark Blue counterparts still so fresh in the memory, the start of a new league season for the Men’s Hockey Blues seems to have come round rather quickly. The squad are now a month into their league campaign. Well prepared by three gruelling weeks of pre-season training and a brief, but action-packed, tour of Brussells, the 2012 vintage are beginning to hit their straps. The squad boasts an exciting combination of new talent and returning Blues. Felix Styles, in his third year at the heart of the Light Blue defence, will skipper the side this season.
Vice-Captain Dave Harrison, named ‘Man of the Match’ in last year’s Varsity victory, will work closely with him to push this talented new outfit towards promotion into the National Leagues and, of course, repeat success against Oxford come March.
The last fortnight has provided a flurry of testing encounters. The Blues had to deliver industry and innovation in equal measure to seal victory against a notoriously combative Dereham XI. Swinn latched onto a delectable slice of Charles Hardy V skill to scramble in the only score of the game. At the other end, Dereham launched a wave of late attacks and the Blues had to call on the experience of Styles as well as the characteristic reflexes of keeper Morrison to maintain their advantage.
A vital three points were fine reward for such a composed display at an infamously hostile venue.Just twenty-four hours later the Blues hosted Wisbech Town in the second round of the National 1st XI Cup. Cambridge proved far too polished for the visitors. Their unrelenting control of possession from the outset ensured that it wasn’t long before Cairns fired home from close range to get the scoreboard moving. Assured in their structure and game plan, the home side added two more to their tally before the break. Harrison provided some short corner artistry to send the ball into the roof of the Wisbech net after Charlie Bennett had deflected an irresistible Mclean cross to double the lead.
The second half saw Cambridge’s dominance continue. The home side eventually ran out comfortable 6-2 victors with Cairns securing his hat- trick and Grimshaw opening his account for the season. Two late Wisbech goals were a consolation that the tenacious visitors perhaps deserved.
The Blues will undoubtedly be disappointed, however, to have conceded to a side that never really looked to pose a legitimate threat.
It would have made for a magical fortnight had the Blues snatched victory when league leaders St Alban’s visited Tab-land the following week. From the off, the visitors showed the pedigree in their forward line and the abrasive physicality in the midfield that make them such a force in the East League. The Blues displayed a maturity generally uncharacteristic of such a young side and matched the Albans’ belligerence with their own brand of flare and creativity. Grimshaw grabbed the only goal of the first period. He nudged home to complete a fluid counter attack, thereby giving the home side the slenderest of advantages to take into the half time break.
Early in the second half, as Cambridge clung desperately to their narrow lead, Albans were justly punished with yellow cards for a cocktail of wayward tackles. But Cambridge could not make their numerical advantage tell. Eventually, when restored to their full complement, a long period of Albans pressure reaped a deserved equaliser.
With a draw looking like the most likely result, it was only a freak own-goal that could separate the two sides. With 90 seconds remaining Albans crashed a ball across the Cambridge ‘D’, to see it deflected by a light blue stick past the helpless Morrison and high into the Cambridge net. It was a heart-breaking conclusion to a fixture from which the home side surely deserved to depart with at least a point.
It has been a promising start to the new season but, perhaps inevitably, a great deal of work remains to be done if this year’s squad are to fulfil their immense potential.