Manchester Hockey 1sts 3-2 Sheffield Hallam 2nds
The University of Manchester Hockey 1sts moved into the quarter-finals of the Hockey Trophy with a tense victory over Sheffield Hallam 2nds this week. Manchester ran out in their traditional UKIP colours on a crisp Spring evening, and optimism wafted through the Armitage Centre, in equal parts a reflection of the lengthening evenings and of Manchester’s successful season.
The side currently holds first place in Northern A, eight points from second place, and mathematically assured to retain their title. Their defeat to Liverpool John Moores in December has been the one foul stain on an otherwise undrawn and unbeaten season.
Their opponents, Sheffield Hallam 2nds, have been rather more downtrodden this season, punching above their weight perhaps in a league of 1sts. They sit beleaguered at the bottom, with interesting implications should their scrap for survival end with an encounter with their snooty first-team counterparts in March.
But one couldn’t justifiably accuse Sheffield of focusing on the league. The enduring blight of weakened teams appears yet to have filtered down to the British Universities and Colleges Sport league system. For the opening twenty, it was an even affair, Manchester dominating down the right but Sheffield making headway through the middle. Manchester’s Ryan MacGowan opened the scoring midway through the half before Rowan Poots scored from a penalty corner.
Vocal and encroaching support in the second half caused a minor kerfuffle with the official, but you couldn’t expect the purple and yellow to be anything other than buoyant when James Bennett made it three after the break. Sheffield fought back to 3-2 late on, and in the dying minutes brought their ‘keeper out, who in hockey looks like the Michelin Man.
Manchester will play the winner of Cardiff and Oxford on February 28 at the Armitage Centre. The days are getting warmer and it’s a short three-minute stroll from Squirrel’s.