Sobering afternoon for hockey seconds as Sheffield snatch win

York are left to pick out the positives after going down 1-0 to Sheffield University fourths on Wednesday afternoon

Photograph by Sam Newsome

Photograph by Sam Newsome

UNIVERSITY OF YORK SECONDS 0
UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD FOURTHS 1

Wednesday 21st October – BUCS League 5B

In a match as uninspiring as the inclement weather, York’s seconds, infused with first-year debutants, just couldn’t figure out how to break down dogged Sheffield. The Steel City outfit had probably travelled in hope of a point but, with a backs-to-the-wall mentality, were in no mood to scoff at all three as their opponents laboured in vain.

York appeared rusty at times, as newcomers and veterans alike struggled to tune into the same wavelength, although this was probably more a reflection of the university’s ludicrously late term dates – and the inevitable scramble to integrate new faces – than any technical failings.

The decisive moment, on 42 minutes, embodied the palpable sense of frustration on the Astroturf. Sheffield were undoubtedly modest opposition and economised on attacking invention, yet caught York in possession inside their own half, roared forward unopposed and blazed the ball high into the net. Facing even a single-goal deficit, with legs leaden in the driving rain, you sensed it was one of those days.

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Joe Walsh, the man-of-the-match, takes the game to Sheffield on Wednesday afternoon. Photograph by Sam Newsome.

There were positives, though, and on another day, it would have been the hosts celebrating the perfect start to BUCS League 5B. One of those on debut, Joe Walsh – brother of Billy, the firsts stalwart – produced a man-of-the-match display and some nifty touches. His influence on the team is certain to grow as the season progresses, while the ability of Matt North and Will Fresson, third year campaigners, is beyond reproach.

But York’s initial set-pieces were wasted on them. The injections painfully slow and Sheffield had little difficulty hacking the ball to safety as the training ground manual was ignored. Hugh Richards, the Captain, was foiled by an outstretched stick as he tried to convert the best of these corners.

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Hugh Richards, the York Captain, sees his shot blocked as Matt North looks on. Photograph by Sam Newsome.

Having weathered the early storm, Sheffield became increasingly confident on the counter-attack, pouring forward in the absence of an effective York “press.” A trio of half-chances in the run-up to the interval was thankfully the best they could manage, all three flashing wide of the goal.

Having fallen behind, York camped themselves deep inside the Sheffield half during the final 20 minutes but the sole golden opportunity, here and gone in a blink of the eye, was wasted. Fresson, like a poacher, was positioned just three yards out and steered the ball goalwards, only for the ‘keeper to scramble across, miraculously, and block the shot. With their custodian in such inspired form, Sheffield, despite the handicap of a sin bin late on, were never really in danger and held on for a narrow victory.

A sobering afternoon for York, then, as they lost by the only goal, but one from which some positives can be taken. Obtaining the right blend of old and new talent is a priority, but there is certainly potential. At times today, York seemed slightly bereft of self-belief and didn’t generate the necessary pressure after falling behind but, in a few games time, will most definitely be more than the sum of their parts.

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