Glasgow shows fighting spirit

Clare Toner

rgb hockey sarah-ann lee01_5Glasgow University Hockey Club took a giant step towards promotion after a gruelling victory against fierce rivals East Kilbride Avondale in a pulsating match at the Garscube.

Glasgow looked like they would have to settle for a draw, but Harry Tattersall Smith lashed in a late winner to snatch a crucial victory. With an earlier away fixture succumbing to bad weather, this was the first meeting between the GUHC and the team sitting directly behind them in the league.

GUHC began with confidence; pressing well in the early stages of the game until defensive sloppiness gave Avondale the opportunity to take an early lead. Michael Mchaffie was forced into a number of fine saves, before Tony McHugh found a way through giving Avondale a shock 1-0 lead. GUHC would have been forgiven for letting the heads drop but they worked  hard to regain control of the game with Cris Logan, a constant threat, acting as a tireless outlet on the wing.

Avondale were clearly at their strongest in the centre of the field so Glasgow relied on wide play to expose gaps in the Avondale defence, while Leo Howes worked hard in the circle to maintain GUHC pressure. In a frustrating twenty minute bout of play, GU dominated possession but lacked a clinical edge.

Avondale were clearly feeling the heat as GU continued to press the visitor’s defence, but the GU team failed to deliver the killer ball, despite the presence of Gokula Mohan in the heart of midfield who orchestrated proceedings.

Late into the first half, Glasgow were unlucky not to convert a penalty corner after incisive interplay between Howes and Ian Oliphant. The scrambled clearance saw Avondale break quickly earning a penalty corner. The Avondale forwards looked strong when they had possession, but this was not often. In the dying minutes of the first half, Howes made a last ditch attempt at powering through the Avondale defence. He created a chance through another penalty corner, but again the home side failed to convert.

Glasgow started the second half with renewed vigour, clearly determined to amend the score line. They piled pressure on the Avondale defence forcing a number of good saves from goalkeeper Donald McAllister.

Michael Harker provided a brief spell of relief for Avondale with a break but unsuccessful strike at the GU goal. An immediate response from GU saw Ian Oliphant find the Avondale backboard, however his goal was controversially disallowed.

Another fast break, this time by East Kilbride’s Tony McHugh, saw the pace of the game pick up as Avondale looked to kill off a resilient university side. The striker looked certain to score as the GUHC defence were caught napping but slipped in the circle.

GU’s persistence was finally rewarded with a goal from Harry Tattersall Smith, who struck clinically from the edge of the circle, after intelligent linking up with Howes on the wing. This style left inevitable gaps, allowing Avondale to fortuitously regain their lead through Ed McHugh, with an incisive counter-attack making the score 2-1. GU might have been dominating play, but Avondale were definitely making more of their chances.

Glasgow did not give up easily and a Howes break down the right of the pitch was smashed home after a smart turn by John Craig to level the score at 2-2.

As the game lulled a draw looked increasingly likely, but with ten minutes left Tattersall Smith scored to send the University team home with all three points and a deserved win.

Gav MacCowan surged through a flagging Avondale defence before threading a ball through to Craig, who squared the ball to partner Tattersall Smith, and he had the composure to tuck away his fourteenth goal of the campaign past the despairing keeper to spark raucous celebrations from the home fans.

The last ten minutes of the game were fairly even, with GU focused on maintaining their slender advantage. Tattersall Smith was unlucky not to complete his hat-trick, as an acrobatic back stick shot was smothered by the goalkeeper after fine work from Oliphant.

GUHC, under the tactical guidance of Alistair Claxton, worked their rolling subs well throughout the game, taking advantage of a strong squad. This tactic proved successful as both pace and effort were consistently high, giving the Glasgow side a crucial edge. The final result bodes well for the Glasgow University side who are currently pushing for back-to-back promotions.

After the game captain Joe Fitzgibbon said: “Today was massive when we went down, but it characterises the team spirit in the way we were able to fight back.”

The captain was confident of their promotion chances: “If we keep performing like that, we’ll definitely be in the mix come May. We have the league leaders here next week — we are unbeaten at home in two years, and when the crowd get behind us it can be a lonely seventy minutes for any opposition player!”


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