The first hockey semi-final pitched an experienced Derwent side against Vanbrugh, who were looking to cause an upset, today on the JLD. The match was tightly contested with full-time ending 0-0. The game was taken to penalty shoot-out with Vanbrugh winning 4-3.
Despite the icy surface, the match started well with both sides tackling high up the field and passing the ball around well. Vanbrugh’s most attacking threat was Seb Harwood whose creativity and quick feet caused instant danger for Derwent’s defence. Equally, Alex Lake’s physicality in midfield saw him break down Vanbrugh’s attacks and dominate possession. Derwent’s Jenny Beckett also played fantastically well as she tirelessly transitioned from defence to attack down the right wing. The first half proved to be tough for both Derwent and Vanbrugh as they went blow for blow.
As the first 35 minutes were underway, early chances fell to Derwent. Derwent were awarded a short corner as Mark Johnston won a foot in the circle for the Blues. As varsity hockey rules dictate, for the team which is attacking the short corner, the first shot has to be taken by a female player. A well-rehearsed Derwent side saw the short corner taken by Alex Lake who pushed the ball to the top of the ‘d’ where Johnston stopped the ball and laid it off to Lindsay O’Brien. However, Vanbrugh read the play well as Andrew Watters rushed off his line to close down O’Brien. Linday O’Brien’s quick turn of pace allowed her to evade Watters as she struck the ball with a reverse hit, unfortunately dragging her shot just wide of the goal. Derwent definitely looked to pose the most attacking threat but needed to be making the most of their opportunities if they were to cause Vanbrugh any real worry.
Vanbrugh looked strong in defence, with defensive midfielder Calum Lennox closing down the likes of Fred Millar and Alistair Walker. Vanbrugh attacked mostly through their trio of Lennox, Watters and Harwood with the three players showing excellent dynamism and ingenuity as they looked to pressurise a Derwent side mainly consisting of university hockey players.
With both teams employing a rolling-substitute system the game continued in a high tempo fashion. Notably, Derwent attacking midfielder, Callum McCulloch’s close ball control saw him create a few clear-cut chances for his team mates. Derwent came closest to scoring when McCulloch found space in between the lines of Vanbrugh’s defence and midfield as he carried the ball up the pitch and then slapped the ball to Fred Millar, unmarked in front of goal, who should have done better. The first half ended 0-0.
Both Derwent and Vanbrugh looked rejuvenated as they took to the pitch for the second half. Immediately Vanbrugh took a much more direct approach when in attack, which seemed to be paying off, as they came close to scoring through Calum Lennox. Only moments later Vanbrugh came close to scoring again through Warren Rousseau. Vanbrugh swiftly played down the wings as their pace caused problems for Charlie McLaughlin and Ed MacDonald. The ball fell to Watters whose powerful hit found its way to Warren Rousseau whose high shot failed to trouble the Derwent keeper.
The second half saw both Derwent and Vanbrugh fighting a war of attrition as neither side could break through and take the lead. The closing stages of the game saw the most exciting play from both hockey teams as they sought to prevent the game going to penalty flicks. Derwent’s Charlie McLaughlin was able to hold up the ball and play a clever pass to Callum McCulloch whose powerful clip hit was saved by Andriy Tabas. Tabas kicked the ball high and out to safety which prompted strong complaints from a frustrated Derwent side who appealed for a short corner. However, the umpire allowed play to continue providing Vanbrugh a clear chance to attack and catch Derwent out. Watters ran the ball up the pitch and pushed it out wide to Mackenzie. But Van Doornewaard read the pass and made a clinical tackle to keep Derwent in the game. The fixture reached full time with the score 0-0.
As penalty flicks approached both team captains were required to put forward 3 male and 2 female players to take the penalty. Vanbrugh went first with Calum Lennox but placed his flick poorly and it was saved by Felix Aylett. Mark Johnston then stepped up for Derwent and scored by pushing the ball passed Tabas’ left. Andrew Watters and Alex Lake scored their penalties for Vanbrugh and Derwent respectively taking the penalty score to 2-1 in Derwent’s favour. Seb Harwood, who took his time and teased keeper Aylett with faux movement, converted for Vanbrugh. Equally, Lindsay O’Brien, who had been one of Derwent’s most threatening players, flicked the ball passed the Vanbrugh keeper without any doubt. Vanbrugh winger MacKenzie now went up to take her penalty and just managed to slot it pass keeper Aylett’s left side. The pressure mounted on Derwent as they stepped further to qualifying for varsity. However, Derwent’s Rosie Cordingley nervously saw her flick saved. Similarly, Vanbrugh failed to capitalise as De Gray also had her weak shot saved. McCulloch stepped up knowing he could win it for Derwent but his shot was not accurate enough and was saved by an in form Tabas.
The game now went to sudden death. Blight stepped forward to take the penalty and flicked the ball into the back of the net for Vanbrugh. Derwent captain, Fred Millar, now carried the hopes of his team’s chances as he prepared to take his penalty. Millar, pedantically positioned the ball on the penalty spot in attempts to antagonise the Vanbrugh keeper. However, it was Millar who was left irate as he dragged his shot wide and handed the win to Vanbrugh. Vanbrugh win 4-3 on penalities.
Vanbrugh (4-3-3): Tabas (GK); Graham, De Gray, Blight (C), Bader; Lennox, Watters, Harwood; Mackenzie, Swash, Rosseau.
Derwent (4-3-3): Aylett (GK); Baker, Charlton, McConnell, Beckett; Lake, Johnston, Walker; Cordingley, Millar (C), O’Brien.
Subs: McLaughlin, McCulloch, MacDonald, Ashton, Van Doornewaard.
Player of the Match: Seb Harwood