Frustrating night for men’s water polo

Sunday night’s BUCS tournament saw York beaten twice and held to one agonising draw at the York Sport Village


BUCS Northern 1A

Image: Philippa Grafton.

Image: Philippa Grafton.

Against some very strong opposition, York came away with one point from three matches on a testing Sunday night.

Beaten at the hands of Sheffield and Northumbria, the Black and Gold were left well aware of the quality of this league. But the most agonising moment of the night came in their second fixture, with victory against Leeds Met snatched away with just two seconds left on the clock.

The evening’s first match saw York up against Sheffield – and with the visitors boasting a 100 per cent record going into this tournament, it was always going to be an uphill task for Gabriel Cramer’s side.

After a quick start from Sheffield, a thumping finish from Joe Ramage briefly brought the hosts level. Soon, though, Sheffield were 1-4 ahead, and looking both solid in defence and ruthless in attack.

Filippo Cocozza added a second York goal before half-time, but Sheffield had time to grab one more to make it 2-5 at the break.

The Black and Gold were not short on possession by any means, but Sheffield’s defensive shape and work rate made it virtually impossible to create a clear cut opportunity. And that inability to break the away side down was punished, Sheffield hitting the back of net three more times to seal a convincing win.

York’s best chance of notching a second win of the league season was undoubtedly the fixture against Leeds Met, but they found themselves having to come from behind repeatedly in the first half.

Wen Lim deservedly brought York level at 1-1, before Ramage had to repeat the trick two minutes later, after being expertly picked out by club president Joe Marshall.

Ramage might have put York in front for the first time had he not delayed his shot, and was left to rue his hesitancy as Leeds Met bagged two in quick succession.

Moor pulled one back for the hosts, before Marshall equalised brilliantly on the stroke of half-time. Goalkeeper Young Gawthorpe picked out an unmarked Cramer on the right, and his lofted pass was plucked out of the air by Marshall and lashed in at the near post to make it 4-4.

A classic counter attack saw Marshall set up Matyas Molnar to give York the lead early in the second half, and the same man made it 6-4 shortly after. With Leeds Met cursing their luck as they hit the bar on numerous occasions, it looked as though it might just be York’s day.

The momentum did shift well and truly back in favour of the visitors, however, whose persistence saw them regain the lead at 6-7. Ramage quickly levelled the scores once again, before Cocozza struck what should have been a decisive blow. He produced an emphatic finish on the turn to hand York a precious lead, only for it to be snatched away in the cruellest fashion.

With eight seconds to play, Leeds Met called a timeout and pushed up the pool, before beating Gawthorpe with a deflected effort from long range that crashed into the top corner. After all of the high drama and tension, York were made to settle for a point.

In their final match, York could again be proud of their performance, even if a second defeat was forthcoming.

For the third match in succession, the White Rose conceded within seconds of the first whistle as Northumbria took an early lead. Molnar brought it back to 1-1, but the Northumbria centre forward was causing havoc and notched two for himself.

Cramer missed two glorious chances, denied both times by the keeper, but Ramage was the man to get York back in it and he added two more to his tally before half-time.

At 3-4 down at the break, York were very much in with a chance of taking at least a point, but found themselves facing a familiar problem.

Just as Sheffield had done earlier, Northumbria produced a solid defensive display, content to let York have their possession and pounce on any loose passing.

The home side pressed for yet another equaliser, but their efforts were to little effect and, out of nothing, Northumbria punished them at the other end. Twice the visitors broke quickly and left Gawthorpe with little chance, as York succumbed to a second defeat of the evening.

One point from a possible nine doesn’t make for the prettiest reading, particularly having come so close to getting a win, but three good performances against high-calibre opposition provided plenty for York skipper Cramer to be pleased with. Speaking to Nouse afterwards, he said, “It was frustrating. They’re three really good teams we’ve played there, and it just shows that we’re in Division One now. Last year was deceptively successful – we were good but playing against some rubbish sides – and now we’re in the big boys’ league.

“They were all very physical, and we’ve been trying to match that with our new strength and conditioning coaching, but it is an uphill struggle. The good news is that we know exactly what we’re working for and how to get there. It just takes time and hard work.”

On the heart-breaking draw with Leeds Met, Cramer added: “That Leeds Met 8-8 was a real killer. We watched them against Manchester and thought we could beat them. But we got complacent. We slipped into a mentality where we were letting goals go past all the time that shouldn’t have happened. We know in future that they’re a team to watch out for and have a few secret weapons.”

York: Gawthorpe, Ramage, Molnar, Cramer (C), Marshall, Haywood, Cocozza, Lim, Moor, Edwards, Philpot.

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