Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Rotten luck for Derwent

Whatever college you belong to and whatever sporting allegiances you may hold, it was very hard not to feel sorry for David Kirk today.

Slumped on the grass outside the JLD, Kirk cut a dejected figure as his Derwent side crashed out of the College Cup on penalties to Vanbrugh 1sts in arguably the tournament’s most fascinating match to date.

As captain faced captain in the shootout, it was the Vanbrugh skipper, James Wilson, who decisively saved his counterpart’s penalty to book a date with either James 1sts or Halifax 1sts next week.

In truth, the shootout was effectively over before Kirk stepped up as Dan Atherton and Alex D’Albertanson produced weak efforts, while John Gill and James Wilson himself scored with conviction.

David Kirk's side were desperately unlucky against Vanbrugh

Derwent’s pre-match penalty practice worked no magic, while the intense atmosphere conjured up by the hundreds gathered around the penalty stage seemed to work in Vanbrugh’s favour.

Kirk will also rue the decision made by referee Dan Horsfall to rule out Ollie Harrison’s header for an alleged push on Chris Wignall. The verdict seemed incredibly harsh, and if Derwent had indeed scored then, I think they would have knocked in a couple more before full time.

It takes a brave man to lead a college of Derwent’s size and sporting prestige, and Kirk can be proud of his efforts in coming so close to emulating predecessor Joe Boughtflower in reaching the College Cup Final. He is relatively new to the role, and I’m sure he will be rewarded for his efforts next year.

It is impossible to deny that Derwent were the better team across the whole 60 minutes. Kirk probably should have scored with a simple header from six yards just after half-time, before Wilson produced a save of the highest quality to deny Atherton.

Although Derwent took a deserved lead with seven minutes remaining, they really should have been out of sight by that stage.

And they succumbed to one of the JLD’s most potent weapons – the long ball. It was the type of goal you would rarely see scored on grass because the ball would not bounce so high off the turf.

As it was, Phil Taylor gambled in poacher fashion to reach the ball a split second ahead of Treasure and nod in a sensational equaliser. Had Taylor been a tenth of a second slower, Derwent would be celebrating a place in the Final.

Maybe Joe Boughtflower was right in his interview with me a couple of weeks ago, when he said some of Derwent’s new players don’t understand how to play on the astro turf.

Firstly, though, I think it was simply a lack of concentration in what were hot and humid conditions which sap players’ physical and mental energy supplies. The absence of Tom Brandreth was shown up in brutal fashion, as our Sportsman of the Year surely would have dealt with the situation.

Secondly, the match demonstrated the significance of the finest margins in sport, and their cumulative effects. What if Kirk’s nudge had gone unnoticed; what if Phil Taylor had failed to reach that bouncing ball; what if D’Albertanson sent his penalty a foot wider than he did? It is these key moments which decide matches, and today was Vanbrugh’s turn to be lucky.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Cup launch reaches finale

College siblings Halifax 1sts and Halifax 2nds will engage in a rare but dramatic battle tomorrow afternoon as the first year of the College Hockey Cup reaches its climax. With the silverware already in the Halifax trophy cabinet, the two sets of players will be fighting it out for brownie points in tomorrow’s final on the JLD in what promises to be an exciting end to an enthralling tournament. Although several matches have resulted in rather predictable outcomes, there is little doubt that the competition has been a brilliant success in its first year in terms of its smooth organisation, decent crowds and some hugely entertaining contests.

Halifax 2nds battled past Derwent 1sts today to reach the final

With the emphasis on college sport being stronger than ever before, the tournament has fitted in seamlessly with the overall target of more participation in university sport. As Vision revealed last month, although university participation in sport is in good shape relative to others around the UK, there is still room for improvement. So the fact the College Hockey Cup discourages top class university players from taking part, and encourages beginners or amateurs to do so instead, is a step in the right direction. In terms of attendance, the event can only get better and could maybe one day rival the football College Cup in popularity. Full marks must also go to Helen Marston, who has been the principal organiser of the event, ensuring that the whole process went without any hitches.

The group stages saw a flurry of goals in almost every match, in particular the 5-5 draw between Alcuin 1sts and Derwent 1sts, and an 11-2 win for Goodricke 1sts over Langwith 2nds. The following week, the incredible scoreline of Halifax 2nds 15-4 Derwent 2nds continued the trend. However, it was Goodricke who had the misfortune of losing by the biggest margin in the tournament, as they were annihilated 22-1 by Derwent 1sts in their final group match. With Halifax being the only of the big two colleges to successfully navigate both teams through the group stages, James will be slightly disappointed their second string could only finish fourth in Group 2 despite the college possessing one of the largest and strongest hockey squads.

In tomorrow’s final, Halifax 1sts will know their opponents inside out from the hours of training they have spent playing together, and their extra quality should prevail. For the 2nds, YUSU Academic Officer Graeme Osborn has played admirably week in, week out, and his team will be relying on his leadership and finishing more than ever. Nevertheless, Halifax 1sts in my opinion are still heavy favourites and already have one hand on the cup. Assuming a cup exists, of course.

You can read all reports of the College Hockey Cup matches on the York Vision hockey page.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

College Cup group stages reach climax

With 48 matches already played, we are now about to enter the final round of group fixtures in College Cup 2012. A couple of groups are very finely poised and there has been some excellent football, numerous upsets and a fair amount of controversy. Here I examine each group and predict how the teams will fare come the end of the week. If you think differently, comment below with your predictions!

Group 1

Nobody expected the results we had on Friday, which has thrown Group 1 wide open. Derwent 1sts, who had not even conceded a goal in their previous three matches, went down 3-1 against a rejuvenated Wentworth1sts, while in-form Halifax 3rds were outclassed 2-0 by Goodricke 2nds. Derwent were a little complacent in their match, and were caught out by long balls, which is very unusual for them. Captain David Kirk will have given his team a beating afterwards, which is why I fear for Halifax 3rds in their final group match. Halifax have had a great tournament so far, but must realistically beat Derwent as Goodricke, just two points behind, face underdogs Langwith 2nds.
Goodricke 2nds are favourites to finish second in Group 1

Importantly, Goodricke have some excellent cross-over players from their first team, notably Joe Mann who always seems to pop up with something spectacular when his team needs it. Their win on Friday was priceless and they should qualify for the Cup. As for James and Langwith, going out in such a tough group is nothing to be ashamed of. However, their latest match did show up the problems of timing in this year’s College Cup, as a delayed start meant they had to call a premature end to the match.

Cup: Derwent 1sts and Goodricke 2nds

Plate: Halifax 3rds and Wentworth 1sts

Knocked out: Langwith 2nds and James 3rds

Best match: Derwent 1sts 1-3 Wentworth 1sts (01.06.12)

Group 2

Meanwhile, the two Cup qualification spots look somewhat more predictable in Group 2. James 1sts, despite suffering a two-point deduction for not supplying a referee for the Derwent-Wentworth match in Group 1, are already through on 10 points thanks to their 6-0 rout against Goodricke 3rds. Striker Tom Clarke is deadly to say the least and allegedly drank four pints before his stunning hat-trick against Halifax. His performance deserved more than a “wowzers”, that’s for sure. Alcuin secured arguably the most important result of the group so far with a narrow 1-0 win over Vanbrugh 2nds, meaning they have a three-point cushion over their rivals in second place. They now require only a draw in their final match against Wentworth 2nds.
James 1sts have a formidable strikeforce
Vanbrugh will be kicking themselves over their earlier defeat to Halifax 4ths; they should have wrapped the three points up and qualified for the Cup. As for Halifax, they have been competitive in all their games, and I suspect they will grab a Plate position as they face Goodricke 3rds next. Many of their players could oust their colleagues in the thirds if they keep up their performances next year.

Cup: James 1sts and Alcuin 1sts

Plate: Vanbrugh 2nds and Halifax 4ths

Knocked out: Wentworth 2nds and Goodricke 3rds

Best match: James 1sts 4-1 Halifax 4ths (25.05.12)

Group 3

If you thought Group 1 was tight, Group 3 is deliciously set for a huge showdown. Goodricke 1sts’ dramatic late winner against the dogged Vanbrugh 3rds has meant both teams, along with Halifax 1sts, are jostling on nine points at the top. James 2nds, however, could steal a place in the Cup despite being three points behind this clutch of teams. They must beat Goodricke and hope Halifax beat Vanbrugh to finish second.  It must be said the referee in the Vanbrugh-Goodricke match was unwise to play over the prescribed 60 minutes. However, Goodricke’s celebrations just show how far this Vanbrugh team have come, whether they end up qualifying for the Cup or not.
Captain Jack Beadle will be badly missed for Halifax 1sts

Derwent 2nds have been the disappointment in the group; I thought they would be pushing for Cup qualification. Their points deduction seemed to rock their confidence, but their defeats have only been by the odd goal. As for Halifax, they don’t appear to be the force we saw last year, but they just need a draw against Vanbrugh to qualify. And as they saying goes, as long as they’re in it, they can win it.  Expect plenty of drama next Thursday.

Cup: Halifax 1sts and Goodricke 1sts

Plate: Vanbrugh 3rds and James 2nds

Knocked out: Derwent 2nds and Alcuin 3rds

Best match: Halifax 1sts 0-1 James 2nds (10.05.12)

Group 4

Vanbrugh 1sts have strolled through the challenges of Group 4 in style, having scored 19 and conceded none. The stand out players have been Phil Taylor, John Gill and Rory Sharkey; they create that illusion they have loads of time on the ball. It also helps that their final match is against their toughest opposition in the group in Halifax 2nds, so there won’t be any pressure on them.
James Wilson is the only 'keeper yet to concede a goal

As for Halifax, they will be on a high after their 7-0 win over Derwent 3rds and must secure a draw to qualify for the Cup, with Langwith 1sts just two points behind. Derwent 3rds have already secured their Plate position and have nothing to play for, but following their embarrassing defeat I think Langwith will capitalise and propel themselves into the top two. Their 5-1 win over Wentworth has set them on their way to a successful end to the group stages. Alcuin 2nds and Wentworth 3rds were always going to be up against it, and so it has proved.

Cup: Vanbrugh 1sts and Langwith 1sts

Plate: Halifax 2nds and Derwent 3rds

Knocked out: Alcuin 2nds and Wentworth 3rds

Best match: Halifax 2nds 3-2 Alcuin 2nds (14.05.12)