Newcastle's persistence goes unrewarded in hockey opener

Northern 3B Hockey: Newcastle 3s 1-1 Durham 5s

James Sproston
16th October 2017
Image: Clara Pettitt

In this year’s Northern 3B curtain raiser, Newcastle took just the one point in their opening match with Durham 5s after a combative and aggressive encounter that showed the rustiness so often seen at the start of the season.

After finishing fifth in the Northern 3B last year, Newcastle opened their account in Northern 4B against a tough Durham 5s side. Being the first match of a long season, there were obvious signs that there were a lot of new faces in the side.

Having pulled their fourth team from BUCS, competition for places in the club has increased from last year. With that in mind, those looking to step up from last year and the first years looking to make an impact were all under scrutiny as they tried to make an impression.

Despite all that, Newcastle started the brighter of the two sides. Quick passing, tough tackles and eager running gave the home side the edge over the visiting Durham side, as Newcastle’s forwards put pressure on the Durham defence.

However, Durham soon began to find a foothold in the game, as Cameron Clarke had to be stopped in his tracks by Newcastle’s Archie Cobb. It took similar challenges from Matt Harrison and Jack Hills to keep the score level in the following exchanges.

The Durham defence was imperious and composed under Newcastle’s relentless pressure

Again Clarke probed down the left for Durham, but he found his shot saved by Ed Nall in between the Newcastle posts. This spurred wild cheers from the suit-cladded lad on the home team’s bench, shouting “they’re nothing special” with his arms flung in the air.

Sitting in the middle of the defence, Jonty Gillingham kept Durham at bay, but was caught out when Alexander McGrigor slid Clarke in round the back of Newcastle’s defensive line. Although his pass to Maxim McGrigor was challenged by Newcastle’s Cobb, the ball fell to Archie Vaughan five yard out, who’s impressive reverse slap found its way past Nall.

Shortly after the goal went in, the umpire blew the half-time whistle. A dejected looking Newcastle side came off the pitch; having started well their passing was lacking in accuracy, which ultimately allowed Durham to come into the game more. The Durham defence, led by Hector Don, was imperious and composed under Newcastle’s relentless pressure, which was the foundation for their eventual first-half superiority.

Man in shirt and tie standing on hockey pitch sidelines excitedly

The crowd getting emotionally invested in the match. Image: Clara Pettitt

Having regrouped with some wise words from Captain Nall, Newcastle started the second half the better. From the off, Henry McCreery set the ball back to Gillingham, who looked to have picked out Nick Campbell, but Newcastle’s man lost his footing at the vital moment.

After Cobb cut out a pass by Durham’s Ed Boyd, Newcastle again launched an attack. Jacob Houltby found the stick of Jonty Coates, whose efforts resulted in a free kick Newcastle’s way. After a scramble from Jack Hills and McCreery, the blue-clad Newcastle players pressed forward for Don to clear from the heart of the Durham defence.

From the resultant dead ball, Cobb weaved through the Durham defence to make his way into the opposition circle. The only thing that could stop the Newcastle man was a tackle from Maxim McGrigor, who made use of the slippery surface to clatter into Newcastle’s No.85.

Having won the short corner, Newcastle made the most of it. Harrison was the man on the touchline to deliver the ball in, finding McCreery who laid the pass off to Gillingham, making no mistake from the edge of the shooting circle.

Throughout the next five minutes, the game ebbed and flowed between the two teams as it seemed both were trying to work out whether to push for the win or sit back and take the draw. A Durham short corner delivered by Vaughan, looking like a poor man’s Steve Sidwell, fired the ball into Alexander McGrigor, who teed up Adam Dewes, but his shot was deflected over the bar.

Newcastle played with more freedom as good work from Cobb and McCreery saw a shot flash just wide of the right-hand post

Kieran Rajasansir kept Newcastle in the game moments later by tackling Durham’s Vaughan. The No.5’s runs into the Newcastle circle had been a growing cause for concern for the home side but a bizarre decision to take the ginger maestro off the field began to relieve the pressure on the Newcastle goal.

With the change in personnel, Newcastle took control of the game. With Clarke and Vaughan off the field, Newcastle played with more freedom, as good work from Cobb and McCreery saw a shot just flash wide of the right-hand post.

Hockey player Archie Cobb

Archie Cobb's world-class first touch gave him more time on the ball and the space to showcase his excellent dribbling and range of passing. Image: Clara Pettitt

Every time Durham dispossessed Newcastle, the defensive team of Cobb, George English and Oli Martindale ensured the home side regained possession soon after losing it.

A dangerous ball into the circle from Houltby, followed by a chance for the same man at the back post had the lads on the bench off their seats, but all for nothing.

Durham remained a threat on the counter attack as Adam Dewes fashioned plenty of opportunities in the Newcastle quarter. Several saves from Nall and a number of slips saved Newcastle’s blushes on a number of occasions.

Captain Nall struck a positive tone after the match, but it was clear that it was a missed opportunity

In the final few minutes of the match, two short corners brought Newcastle close. Gillingham fired one into the corner after a layoff from Cobb, but the umpire called for a foot. Newcastle again had the ball in the back of the net from another Matt Harrison short corner. Despite Gillingham’s golf swing, McCreery had the ball in the back of the net, but the umpire again pulled the play back.

The last chance of the match was beautiful interplay between Campbell and McCreery, which gave Campbell a fantastic sight of goal. Having been on the break, Durham struggled to get defenders across, but Campbell completely mis-hit his shot, and Adam Rasmussen Arda wasn’t able to redirect it into the net.

As the final whistle was blown, Newcastle looked like a beaten team, which showed how close they were to clinching all three points. Captain Nall struck a positive tone after the match, but it was clear that it was a missed opportunity. The running from Jack Hills and Jacob Houltby up top was a big positive, and creating so many chances is reason to be optimistic going forward.

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