National Premier League
Date: 19 September 2015 – HBU Away at Halifax – win 7 – 5
HBU made the long trip to Halifax with a pretty minimalist team of 6 players and Ed Mount the only goalkeeper. Of the regular squad, 2 (Lewis Greenwood and Josh Branchett) were in Spain at the U20 World Championships with the England team and Fabio Vicente could not change his shift for the match. This first match of the season saw Joe Singleton’s return after a lay off and Nigel Mills making a Premier League appearance for the first time in 18 years.
Travelling to Halifax was a nightmare with the A1 closed due to an accident which meant a long diversion to the M1 which has miles of roadworks. Fortunately, the home team had enough rink time to accommodate a late arrival but the HBU players were not in the best of shape. On the other hand Halifax were well up for the match and had signed a high class Spanish player from Manchester.
On last season’s results HBU were clear favourites to have a comfortable win and started confidently with most of the possession but unable to overcome the Halifax tight defence on a small rink which left few angles to beat the goalkeeper. The Halifax system enabled them to use HBU’s attempts on goal as a springboard to counter-attack which led to several shaky moments around HBU’s goal and a penalty which Mount saved.
HBU had to rely heavily on experience and patience and after 10 minutes Joe Singleton scored the first goal of the season with a beautifully flighted shot with the Halifax keeper off guard. HBU continued to dominate the half but lacked sharpness, probably as a result of the journey. As the half closed it all got very sloppy with Halifax equalising with 3 minutes remaining and Barker restoring HBU’s lead a minute afterwards. Jordi Saldana managed to put HBU in front with 5 seconds remaining on the clock. Half-time 3 – 2 to HBU.
With HBU tiring it was difficult to see how HBU was going to open up Halifax any better in the 2nd half so a cautious approach was needed, trying to eke out a better margin to get the substitutes into the match as legs tired. On the other hand Halifax were full of energy and sensing that they could cause an upset they were not prepared to sit back and let HBU play the ball around. 10 minutes into the half they levelled and then stole the ball by pressure on HBU’s last defender and went 4 – 3 up. Fortunately, Barker immediately scored back to level it again.
Making substitutions was now extremely difficult because anyone coming on would have to find their feet instantly and make an impact upfront without compromising the defence. As it happened the decision was made for HBU as Singleton took a heavy knock on his foot and had to come off for treatment. An infringement saw Halifax awarded a direct free-hit which Mount saved. HBU were then given the ball due to an infringement by Halifax and took the chance to attack and score (Singleton back on), 5 – 4 to HBU.
The team foul count was mounting and HBU were awarded a direct free-hit and a chance to put some daylight in the score-line but it was not converted. HBU now reached 10 team fouls and Halifax scored from the direct free-hit, level pegging again, 5 – 5.
With 5 minutes to go HBU’s experience paid off and Neil Austin put them a goal in front again. Halifax threw everything at it and reached 15 team fouls. Barker scored from the resulting direct free-hit which gave HBU a two goal margin and they simply stayed out of trouble for the last 3 minutes.
A great match for the spectators, full of excitement for Halifax and a very nervous start to the season by HBU.
HBU Team: Ed Mount (goal), Joe Singleton (2), Jordi Saldana (1), Tom White, Nigel Mills, Neil Austin (1), Brendan Barker (3) (captain in the absence of Fabio Vicente).