After triumph last week against Nottingham Trent, Birmingham found themselves at the top of the table after the commanding 7-1 victory. The pressure was on this week to maintain their number one position. Their opposition this week came is the form of University of Loughborough 1’s, a University that certainly takes pride from their sporting prowess. Before this week’s action, Loughborough sat 3rd in the table, just 2 points behind Birmingham, meaning it was all to play for on this cold, rainy Wednesday afternoon down at the Bournbrook pitches.
From the first whistle it was clear that nothing separated these two teams in terms of skill, pace and control. In the first-half Birmingham maintained the majority of the possession, sitting comfortably with the ball demonstrating a lot of composure. Loughborough, though quick on the break, were no match for the strength of the Birmingham defence as they continued to pick the ball off the end of Loughborough sticks with ease. After a fast paced dribble down the right hand side of the pitch, Birmingham crossed the ball into the ‘D’ for a fantastic deflection into the goal making the score 1-0 to Birmingham. Birmingham’s strong play was rewarded with another goal right before the half-time whistle to give them a solid 2-0 lead going into the second half. The question now was whether Loughborough could muster a strong push in order to make a comeback.
Things definitely heated up in the second-half in terms of the play, however, the same cannot be said about the weather that got increasingly cold but this didn’t stop the crowd from growing. The second-half of this match saw the umpires begin to exercise their power and were constantly stopping the game for tiny infringements. Not only did they produce multiple green cards, but they also yielded yellow cards without second thought. At one point Loughborough were down to 9 men and Birmingham were reduced to just 10. Not only did the umpires use cards as a method to demonstrate their authority but also refused to take any talk back from any player at all. The crowd loved it, allowing them to really soak up the atmosphere in this intense and dramatic game. The whistles got harsher and louder as the match grew older.
Loughborough really came out fighting in the second-hard, upping the pace of the game and really putting pressure on the Birmingham defence. The Loughborough bombardment eventually broke the tiring Birmingham’s defence, creating holes in their previously stubborn backline. Loughborough capitalised and scored to half the deficit. The match really tested both team’s goalkeepers, who both came under fire from a number of short corners. Birmingham, still in the lead, kept their heads high and continued to have the lion’s share of possession. However, it was simple mis-trapped ball that allowed Loughborough to score their second goal of the day with the Birmingham defence were left nowhere to be seen. The score remained 2-2 right up until the final 2 minutes of the match before Birmingham conceded an unfortunate late goal putting them game beyond them with no time left to retaliate.
It was an unfortunate and undeserving loss for the Birmingham Men’s 1st XI hockey team at Bournbrook this week that has pushed down to 2nd in the table. They played well, never gave up and kept fighting with an impressive combination of pace and skill. Both teams were equally matched, it was just a shame that Loughborough scored so close to the end of the match. Hopefully Birmingham can learn from a few of their basic mistakes and go into next week’s game looking for a win.