Jake Bullock – who was on the pitch – reports on the men’s hockey match between UCL and KCL
Sitting at my desk following a loss in a match that had been built up for months, excruciating headache ensuing, a body in shatters, and with the London sun beaming through my window for the first time since mid-September, many would think it could be challenging to muster up the motivation to write this article, and by doing so, relive the events of Friday evening. Many would be wrong. After the aforementioned months long build up, the event didn’t fail to live up to expectations.
On a brisk but bright end of winter’s evening, the UCL team made their way over to the Olympic Park in Stratford, the location that in 2012 witnessed legends being made, as well as witnessing Great Britain embarrassingly lose 9-2 to the Netherlands in the hockey in front of a home crowd. UCL, however, had their own, better-prepared Ashley Jacksons and Barry Middletons – final years Barny Chapman, Jack Curran and Matt Wilde had experienced many an event of this amplitude before, and wouldn’t be allowing for that kind of trouncing in their last outing for the club.
Spirits were high in the moments leading up to the game, this despite sitting through a painful half for the UCL ladies at the hands of an incredibly impressive King’s side. Both side’s coaches, both playing at the highest level of hockey possible in England, made similar comments in their pre-match interviews. King’s Canadian international Richard Hildreth stating his ‘excitement to see who was about to step up and who was going to choke’, and UCL’s Johnny Kinder pointing out the ‘evenly matched nature of the contest’.
In the first five minutes it was UCL, and Barny Chapman, who made their mark on the game. From the back post Chapman put the ball past the King’s keeper and opened the scoring. This was after Jack Curran, having had a fantastic final season, causing problems for defences up and down the country, uncharacteristically missed a multitude of opportunities in a goal mouth scramble – thank god the long locks of Chapman were securely in place (him being unable to see clearly at the best of times).
It was soon clear, however, just how evenly matched this match was going to be. With UCL struggling to deal with some of the King’s movement, and chances being created at either end, it wasn’t long before pressure from King’s took its toll. They scored two goals before the half was over. Had it not been for our very own Hong Kong international, Fahim Khan, bringing his ‘A’ game to the night (as he so routinely does) and acting as a rock at the back, and Chris Baker athletically pulling off many a save and organising so efficiently the midfield and back lines, UC could quite easily have been entering half time more than one goal down.
It was now down to Kinder, in his usually serious (verging on angry) style, to inspire the boys to up their levels in the final 35 minutes of the match. That he certainly did, and up performance levels we certainly did. Will Nunn with his tricky skills really began to threaten the King’s defence, and the number of circle penetrations increased dramatically compared with the first half. The second half was played out much in this vein, with UCL threatening, but just not doing quite enough to beat the impressive King’s keeper. And so it was that King’s walked off the Olympic Park pitch as Varsity winners, for the second year in a row. However it wasn’t due to a lack of effort from the UC boys, each and every one of them having left everything out on the turf.
Special mention must now go to the UCL spectators, led so magically by Jack Windsor and his mega phone, for making the effort to head east and support the team, providing an atmosphere that I certainly haven’t played with before, and that many of us may never play with again. And then, of course, joining the team in commiserating the loss in typical, fine UCL fashion, into the early hours. Concentration must now shift to thanking those who have served UCL 1st XI for many a year and are now ready to depart into the world. Here’s to celebrating a fine season led by inspirational Will Nunn, to creating a tour to the Mediterranean island of Malta that will undoubtedly be unforgettable for all involved, and to then preparing to redress the pain of Friday night next year. I’ll certainly be there.
All image credits: Carolyn Brown, Pi Photographer
UCL Line up:
Chris Baker (GK, making his 100th and final appearance)
Matt Wilde (President, making his final appearance)
Will Nunn (Captain, disappearing off to Canada for next season)
Barny Chapman (making his final appearance)
Jack Curran (Vice-Captain, making his final appearance)
Most Valuable Player: Fahim Khan