As the evening closed in on BUCS Big Wednesday 2022, Nottingham Hockey Centre hosted the final of its six fixtures as Nottingham 1s took on Loughborough for the Men’s Championship. With a packed-out and noisy crowd surrounding a slick pitch, spectators at the game and on the live stream were in for a treat. Rhys Thomas tells us more.
From the first whistle Nottingham started brightly, pressing with strong attacking intent and winning a penalty corner within two minutes. Notts’ yellow shirts surrounded the circle, but Loughborough eventually escaped safely after a scramble around their goal.
Fuelled by the raucous crowd, Nottingham continued to feed off of the home advantage and were relentless in winning the ball back in midfield. Despite this, the visitors remained resolute in defence and looked dangerous on the counterattack but failed to convert their first quarter corners. Though there was enthralling end to end action, neither side were able to create a clear-cut chance before the umpires signalled the end of the first quarter, testament to some rigid defensive action from both back lines.
With the goal at his mercy the Loughborough striker couldn’t adjust quickly enough to convert into the open net
This theme changed in the second quarter, however, as Loughborough spurned a golden chance to take the lead in the 19th minute. Their number 20 put the opportunity on a plate for his teammate after some tricky dribbling into the D, but with the goal at his mercy the Loughborough striker couldn’t adjust quickly enough to convert into the open net.
This miss came back to haunt the Leicestershire side just minutes later when Notts ace Louis Tipper scored a perfectly executed backhand deflection off of a smart penalty corner routine to open the scoring in this all-Midlands affair.
With the game ignited, Loughborough pressed forward in search of an immediate response, and very nearly did just that as a reverse hit effort flashed inches wide of the Nottingham goalpost. The Loughborough pressure mounted, and in the 27th minute they did earn an equaliser as Ellis Robson slotted home nicely after spinning his full back and mazing into the circle.
Responsibility fell on Conor Williamson, and he dispatched the stroke confidently to restore the University of Nottingham’s lead
The Green and Gold weren’t disheartened and continued the tug-of-war theme by piling the pressure back on the visitors. A clever corner routine saw a shot blocked on the line with the body, leaving the umpire with no choice but to award a penalty flick. Responsibility fell on Conor Williamson, and he dispatched the stroke confidently to restore the University of Nottingham’s lead.
In the dying embers of first half added time, Loughborough again pegged Notts back, or at least they thought! A spate of shots on the Nottingham goal eventually saw the net bulge, but the umpire on the far side of the pitch had blown his whistle for an offence just before the ball was struck, which ensured the UoN 2-1 lead remained intact at half time.
With the BUCS Championship on the line, the second half was bound to be a tense affair following a frantic first period. The standard of hockey, though, remained fantastically high as both sides worked tirelessly trying to find a crucial opening.
That opening arrived in the 48th minute with a moment of pure quality from the men in African Violet as they equalised, legally this time. A slap from their attacking 23-metre line was deflected into the bottom corner from almost 10 yards out as Robson claimed his brace.
Nottingham rebounded once more, but by the end of Q3 they were unable to take the lead for a third time in the match. The match was beautifully poised at 2-2, with a final quarter of 17.5 minutes to decide the championship in normal time.
It was Loughborough who started the final period strongest, and Notts keeper Olly Smart making several vital interventions to keep the score level. But with ten minutes to go, a contentiously awarded penalty corner was converted by Loughborough in a cruel, late blow.
Pressure mounted on the visiting back line as Penrose was shown a green card and put into the sin bin
UoN had precious little time to salvage the game. The side in violet though, as they had done for much of the game, continued to play excellent attacking hockey as they sought to kill their Midlands opposition off. Eventually Nottingham were able to pin them back, and pressure mounted on the visiting back line as Penrose was shown a green card and put into the sin bin.
Notts threw everything at Loughborough, sacrificing keeper Smart to play the final few minutes with 11 outfield players. Their efforts were rewarded with a short corner in the final seconds. Spectators around the ground collectively held their breath as yellow shirts surrounded the D ahead of the injection. A hat-trick of attempts on target were heroically cleared, and agonisingly for Notts the ball was smashed up the field. That would prove to be the last of the action, and the Nottingham Men’s 1s suffered a painful and cruel defeat to neighbours Loughborough on Big BUCS Wednesday.
The victorious squad flooded the pitch to celebrate a fantastic win, and they must be congratulated on their title. Hopefully UoN can return to the final next year to avenge the outgoing squad.
Overall, it was a fantastic occasion, well attended by both sets of fans. Spectators were rewarded with a pulsating game of high-quality action. The match demonstrated the incredible standard university sport across the country is played at and epitomised everything BUCS Big Wednesday is all about. Roll on next year!
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