Nottingham University Hockey 1st XI concluded a successful November being awarded Athletic Union’s ‘Team of the Week’ after a historic 2-1 victory away at Birmingham University.
The game started at a furious pace and before long goalkeeper George Pinner found himself picking the ball out of his own net following a neat Birmingham set-piece. However, the Great Britain international was quick to protest the decision, succeeding in vocally persuading the officials that the goal had been scored after a near-invisible Birmingham infringement.
Invigorated by their good fortune, the away side started to show greater venture from midfield and were finally rewarded for their adventurous play when Ben Arnold breached the Birmingham defence, slipping the ball into an open net after skilfully deceiving the wavering keeper.
This was the fourth game in a row in which NUHC had opened the scoring, yet following a frustrating trend, Birmingham swiftly counter-attacked the overexcited Nottingham side, creating a series of opportunities before controversially equalising from a penalty corner despite the complaints of Pinner and the rest of the Nottingham side that the ball had failed to cross the goal line.
Deeply frustrated, Nottingham again pressed forward, reaping the rewards when a penalty corner saw set-piece specialist Benjamin Apperly put his side ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Inspired by a forceful team talk and several hundred home fans who had gathered to watch the grudge match, it was Birmingham who started the second half better as Nottingham struggled to hold onto their lead. However, the visitors looked to have extended their advantage courtesy of Arnold but yet again the officials had a role to play, disallowing the goal for an earlier infringement.
Fuming Nottingham Coach Dominic Graham struggled to keep the emotions of his team under wrap, and reinvigorated by their good fortune Birmingham created one final opportunity that resulted in a penalty corner as the final whistle was blown. A nail-biting conclusion saw Pinner successfully repel the Birmingham captain’s effort, pawing the ball away to safety to give Nottingham a momentous victory and three vital points closer to safety in the BUCS Premier League North.
Matthew Flower and Andrew Birch