Cambridge University 5 Chelmsford 3
NE14hockey East Men’s League
DESPITE a spirited second-half fight back, Chelmsford were left ruing a lacklustre opening as their win less streak was extended to five games.
With the game delayed by 45 minutes, Chelmsford were slow out of the traps and were under intense pressure from the students from the first whistle. Cambridge though were unable to take advantage and scoring chances were rare as the Chelmsford defence repeatedly repelled everything the hosts could throw at them.
Midway through the half, Chelmsford appeared to have settled into the game when they started creating half chances of their own, and could have taken the lead when Victor Condemine rattled a reverse stick strike against the cross bar. This acted as a wake-up call for Cambridge, and proved to be Chelmsford’s only meaningful effort on goal before half time as Cambridge re-exerted their authority. Cambridge finally took a deserved lead from a low drag flick from a penalty corner, but the goal owed as much to the disorganised defending as it did to the quality of the finish.
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The goal spurred Cambridge on and they did not have to wait long before they extended their lead in controversial circumstances. Tom Fanger appeared to be obstructed as he closed down a Cambridge player, but in the absence of a whistle from the umpire the forward had the time to place a well-struck shot inside the near post.
Chelmsford’s cause was not helped when Will Hales received a temporary suspension for a series of mistimed tackles. Just before the break Cambridge took advantage and looked to have taken an unassailable lead when poor marking left two forwards in space at the far post and gave one of them the simple tasking of rolling the ball into an empty net.
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Staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat, Chelmsford came out for the second half a rejuvenated side. Within 30 seconds of the restart, their forwards had forced the Cambridge defence into surrendering possession. A well-worked move concluded with Geoff Mills squaring the ball across the face of goal for Condemine to bundle the ball over the line and register his first goal for Chelmsford.
Chelmsford were dealt another blow when defender Tom Fanger was shown a yellow card for breaking down play above his shoulder, but this did not stop Chelmsford. They continued to press forward and reduced the deficit further when a well-worked short corner was smartly saved by the Cambridge keeper only for Mills to follow up and lift the rebound high into the net.
Just moments later and Chelmsford had completed the comeback when another short corner was saved by the keeper, and this time Adam Hunter was first to react and slot the ball home. With over 15 minutes to play, Chelmsford were in the ascendancy and could sense an unlikely victory over the highflying students. The visitors were continuing to mount attack after attack, but this was to prove their undoing as they left themselves exposed at the back. A misplaced pass in the defence allowed the Cambridge centre forward an unchallenged run at goal, and he calmly rounded Jason Evans before unleashing a reverse stick shot into the top corner.
Despite this setback, Chelmsford continued to press, and as the game entered the final minute could have snatched a dramatic late equaliser when a clever attack down the right between Hunter and Mills was again saved by the Cambridge custodian. Fortunately for the hosts, the rebound fell kindly to one of their defenders, from where they launched a devastating counter attack and restored their two-goal cushion with seconds left on the clock.
Next Saturday Chelmsford host Wapping at Chelmer Park at 2pm. The following day, they have the opportunity to put their league form behind them with the visit of Olton & West Warwick in the fourth round of the cup, also starting at 2pm.