UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 1
UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM THIRDS 0
BUCS League 2B – Wednesday 3rd March
A lot rested on the young shoulders of Alec Feakes as he strode forward to take the decisive penalty flick against Durham yesterday. Earlier in the campaign, Rob Newton, the Male President, had worried about the ‘underachievers’ tag being written in permanent marker on the Hockey Club’s psyche. But when Feakes stepped up at about 3.45 yesterday afternoon, it had become even more serious than this as the indignity of relegation loomed once again.
Thankfully he scored – thrashing the ball with confidence and composure into the top left-hand corner – and York can now travel across the city to St. John in two week’s time knowing that, unlike twelve months ago, their neighbours can’t send them down. It was another big moment on a day of salvation for the club, settling a game which, although low scoring, was packed with incident and excitement.
After a winter which, at times, has been pretty torrid, the firsts can look forward to a brighter spring. The turn in the weather seems to have brought a change in fortunes and suddenly, following yesterday’s victory and with the prospect of a BUCS Cup final and Roses on the horizon, this season might not take on such a bad complexion after all.
This was York’s second rendez-vous with Durham thirds within seven days, having beaten them 2-1 in the cup semi-final last week, but they entered the game still without Andy McIlwraith, their skipper and Welfare Officer Candidate in the YUSU Elections, who is not quite back to full fitness.
Of course, York still have Billy Walsh who, as usual, embarked on a one-man crusade to beat Durham – inside two minutes, he had exhibited close control to dance through the opposition defence, his shot blocked by the goalkeeper’s chest. York’s vibrant opening continued when Henry Meller, who continues to impress in his first year with the club, jinxed in from the left flank and pinged a shot off the upright.
Billy Walsh leads the York attack during yesterday’s game. The erstwhile captain was again very impressive against Durham. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.
Unfortunately, Meller hobbled off seconds later, casting anxious glances at his right ankle and Newton, the York Sport Presidential Candidate, entered the fray earlier than anticipated. Meller did eventually return to the action deep into the second-half, but his influence might well have settled this game earlier.
Still York pressed – Feakes could only swing and miss when well-positioned three yards from goal, but the breakthrough was imminent. Following another break down the right, Andy Harris found himself in acres of space only for the Durham goalkeeper to clumsily slide tackle him, giving Feakes a quick opportunity to atone, which he took.
The second-half followed a similar pattern as York continued to defy the team’s respective league placings, pushing constantly for the match-killing second. Newton shimmied inside two defenders before being forced off the ball and Walsh sprinted some 60 yards only to take a touch too many and allow the goalkeeper time to get down and block.
York have one BUCS League fixture remaining, away to St. John on March 17th, before their Cup Final against MMU Cheshire on March 24th. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.
Durham were handicapped by a sin binning for reasons which remain known only to the umpire but it offered York more scope to turn the screw. Feakes was looking for his second and, shortly after seeing a decent hit repelled, he sent the ball agonisingly wide of the near post.
And this failure to double the lead nearly proved so costly. In the dying minutes, Durham finally awoke from their slumber and, restored to their full compliment, forced York into five nail-biting minutes of heroic defending. They attacked from all angles, the ball simply not being cleared effectively and the hosts were compelled to throw sticks, ankles – anything – in the way to preserve their lead.
The final whistle was a sweet sound after what seemed an eternal last few minutes, but the job was done and, barring any last minute administrative whims from BUCS, York will line up in League 2B once again next year.
York Line-up: GK – Sam Harriman, 24. Luke Featherstone, 6. Rich Larkin, 5. Billy Walsh, 31. Matt Foakes, 8. Mark Inman, 23. Henry Meller, 9. Andy Harris, 30. James Branton, 13. Nick Latcham, 11. Dan Alder
Substitutes: Rob Newton, Alec Feakes