YORK 1 LANCASTER 2
On a day of almost uninterrupted success for York’s sports teams, there was one shaft of grey amid a panoply of sunlight as York hockey firsts were defeated on the Astroturf.
The story of the game was illustrated by the fortunes of the two captains. York’s Billy Walsh was truly awe-inspiring in midfield, producing an effulgent display of dazzling and inventive hockey. It was cruel for him to be on the losing side. His opposite number for Lancaster- Liam- was plump and blonde, but scored what was to be the winning goal, despite a torrent of potentially psychologically ruinous barracking from the York Hockey club, with regard to his weight, degree subject, name, mother and face, but mainly his weight.
Walsh’s work in midfield demanded a killer touch up front, but York wasted more chances than a man throwing the contents of a Monopoly board into a well. Ultimately, that was where the game was lost. Shots whistled past the post. Short corners were spurned. It was agonising for the Yorkshire masses watching on.
Before they knew it, York were behind. After 2 minutes, Lancaster smacked in a rebound from a short corner. The disappointment was tempered by two Lancaster players falling over in the ecstatic melee that followed. From then on, Lancaster had a spell of around ten minutes of pressure in the York half, where it seemed that York might totally capitulate, lending a really miserable end to their already relegation-blighted season.
To their credit, York asserted control mid-way through the first half, with Walsh and Harris retaining possession well up to the Lancaster area. It was to be a familiar pattern for the rest of the game, with York dominating territory and Lancaster doggedly defending their area. But York couldn’t turn their pressure into what matters. After one of many short corners, the ball was in the net. The fans celebrated, but the referee had already blown for another short corner. The first of two Lancaster players was booked, offering an opportunity for York to strike. Lancaster sat ever deeper, looking to play on the break, the York chances kept coming but weren’t taken.
In the second period, the game became more fiery and both sets of supporters cranked up their barbs a notch. York continued to focus on Liam’s weight and bizarrely at one point that one of the Lancaster players was an only child, which is actually a complement in places like China. Across the Rubicon, the Lancaster fans had procured a megaphone. “Black and gold shirt? You look like an idiot mate!” was just one gem. Lancaster lost another man to the sin bin after a wild swipe at his opponent’s ankles. The excitingly named Rich De Boltz was everywhere, excellently linking up the play. Walsh on two occasions dribbled past at least five Lancaster players like a snake with a hockey stick. York dominated. But Lancaster’s defending was excellent and York panicked around the area. With twenty minutes to go, Lancaster put the second of their allocated two nails in York’s coffin.
After superb work down the right wing from the Lancaster number 11, the ball was slid back to the edge of the area where Captain Liam had time to compose himself and strike the ball into the bottom corner. He punched the air, the joy shining through on his cherry red face.
Five minutes later, York replied in unbelievable style. At a short corner, the ball was slid back to Walsh on the edge. He stopped it and chipped it up as two Lancaster defenders bore down on him. “Oh blast” said a by-stander, “When will we stop spurning these guilt edged opportu… wait a minute”. Walsh did some keepy-uppy round the defenders and then smashed a shot towards goal. The keeper saved and Bode slid in the rebound. It was a stunning bit of individual brilliance from Walsh. Gasps rippled through the crowd, overwhelmed women fainted. It was game on.
Sadly, as it turned out, the goal was like the kick at the end of Karate Kid but, rather than the Karate Kid winning the match, the opponent getting up, defensively closing out further attacks, winning on points and getting the girl. York came as a close as is possible, having a shot cleared off the line by a player covering for his keeper. It was not to be York’s day.
As the whistle blew, York fell to their knees, desolate in defeat. Lancaster leapt in elation, enveloped by their on-rushing fans. Walsh’s men glumly trudged to the sidelines. The Lancaster captain gave a hint to the lifestyle choices that have caused his current globular shape, by downing two litres of Strongbow through a hose.
The image said it all. Usually separated only by the Pennines, the two teams were now separated by agony and glory.
York: Sam Harriman – GK, Rich Larkin – RB, Andy McIlwraith – LB, Rob Newton – Sweeper, Mike Giblin – CB, Andy Harris – RCM, Billy Walsh – CM, Rich De Boltz – LCM, Niko Bode – RF, Dan Alder – CF, Joe Spedding – LF. Subs: Nick Latcham – F, Mark Inman – F, Jamie Harbour – D