Coming off the back of a disappointing cup loss to Lincoln 1sts who compete two leagues above, DMU Men’s Hockey 1st XI arrive for their second league game determined to bag another 3 points. A win wasn’t inevitable however, Nottingham had already played two games including a massive 7-1 win against Lincoln 2nds.
A lengthy injury and absence list due to illnesses meant that DMU were definitely weakened without the supreme goal scoring threat of Luke Fletcher, the tricky wing play of Gary De Allende and the solid defensive play of Lloyd Crawley. This did not slow the home team’s start however, winning a couple of penalty corners in the first 5 minutes which tested the goalkeeper. Nottingham were warned early on by both umpires for uncontrolled and rather ‘agricultural’ tackling which gave DMU free hits aplenty on the edge of the away teams 23 metre line which were shelled into the D by centre back Liam Egan looking for a deflection, but to no avail.
Illness within the team also showed towards the end of the first half as Nottingham began to see more and more of the ball as DMU’s rigid shape began to falter. The teams went in at half time with nothing a piece both feeling they could have got more from the half. DMU began the second half slowly again, it was only the supreme fitness of Josh Sellars playing the vital sweeper role and the solid partnership of Ben Holder and Liam Egan at centre back that halted any advances from Nottingham. Goalkeeper Leighton James was brought into action a few times at the beginning of the second half and managed to keep the ball out of the goal. As the second half ebbed and flowed for the home side they began to grow into some attacking form once more winning the ball inside their own half and counter attacking with ferocious pace on each wing, but the final ball was just not up to scratch.
Just as DMU thought a goal was coming for them, they were caught with too many players up the pitch and a precise hit out that cut through the advancing DMU defence to catch them on the back foot, Nottingham found themselves one on one with the keeper who rushed out of goal to meet the attacker who managed to sneak the ball under the out stretched arm of goalkeeper Leighton James.
DMU’s heads did not drop however and pushed even harder searching for the equaliser which came not five minutes later with an emphatic finish from Liam Egan who had surged forward from defence to lift the ball over an out-stretched stick of a defender and caught the ball perfectly on the volley which hit the back of the net before the keeper knew anything about it.
It was clear that DMU were not happy with just one point from this game and pushed harder for a winner that seemed less and less likely to come as their shooting was not on point that afternoon with shots flashing wide and being miss-hit which on another day would find the back of the net. However with the clock running down DMU won a penalty corner in what could be the last play of the game, the ball was injected out to the top of the D to Liam Egan who let it run through to Matt Lilley who took the ball out to the right and slipped it under his shoulder to Egan who collected the ball and flicked it into the bottom corner out of the reach of both keeper and defender on the line, both the team and the crowd roared as the well worked and perfectly executed set piece handed DMU the three points to take their total to six and placed them top of the league with a game in hand.
The teams next fixture is against University of Derby on 19 November. The game takes place at home at St Margaret’s Pastures with a 14:30 push back.