Good night, Laurel and Hardy. Hardly deserving for all their patience and prowess, the Soldiers of the West saw two points tease and taunt them, then saw them being sizzled down to a scintilla as Bath Spa’s hockey side salvaged a draw on Wednesday 11th November.
Sleep tight. This was the visitor’s first-team chasing tertiary hosts, yet UWE’s thirds were thirsty for triumph. Having been hungry even before their feet pattered upon the floor, the home side feasted on a goal early in the first-half, holding the advantage for most of this tie. Yet they were barred from the treasure chest of three points by Spa’s late, lacerating finish under Frenchay’s floodlights.
The build up to their goal was breath-taking. Spa’s speedy number 12 glided past UWE’s defender before moulding the most soul-destroying pass of them all.
On leaving his hockey stick, as the weapon of mass destruction briskly made its way to his Spa team-mate, the ball taunted UWE’s ‘keeper as if warning him of imminent, iniquitous trouble. Crippling the limbs of justice, the Bath receiver fired past the advancing ‘keeper to equalise at 1-1 with just four minutes remaining. UWE uttered not a mutter, tumbling into a closing drawer.
UWE caught Spa’s goalie off guard in the 30th minute. Ed Miller held possession, passed back to his team-mate who drove into the path of striker Dan Copper, who was well-placed to finish. Delirium for Dan and wild celebrations for the western outfit, the home side deserved their one-goal lead.
Marshalled by Joe Weaver and Domnick Kavanagh, UWE were defensively sound. Strong, stubborn and old school, their tackles obliterated any whisker of a chance that fell to Bath.
On the front line, Jack Beckett and Joe May were lively for UWE, while Will Smith, especially during the latter stages of his tragedy, was exceptional. Darting round defenders, tearing down the wing, Smith was the patron behind UWE’s impressive performance.
Spa had their own pertinent power house, their number 2, a long-chinned defensive-midfield menace. A tough talking titan; he bossed his side into offensive play then waited and wailed encouragement at his flock. Only sounds could be heard from his maw as both vowels and consonants were left muffled behind his mouth-guard. Still, stentorian support was all that mattered. He was passion personified.
His Faith fostered chances for Bath as they had short corners here, sharp shots there and pacers and chasers everywhere. Yet UWE were up to the task. Their back-line blocked any goal-line danger.
Matt Lawrensen was troubling Bath up the other end as UWE had more than their fair share of flashes past the post. And Cooper crept in and broke the stalemate by netting on the half-hour mark.
This goal gave birth to creativity. A flurrying move from Bath saw them fire at the hosts ‘keeper but his diving save kept the score the same. Then UWE’s Beckett drove wide before Smith’s importance proliferated. His stylish one-two with team-mate Niall Parkinson emphasised his importance.
Dan Cooper was as much a menace as anyone. Quelling and gelling, pirouetting with the ball at his feet, Cooper caused so much of a stir he even fell a Spa defender when dancing his way through on goal.
The second-half saw UWE swarm forward in ferocious fashion. The white, rolling antagonist was more pin-ball than hockey-ball as the Bristolians whizzed their weapon around the turf, searching for a second.
The away side eventually dug up dignity though; taking strides into West of England’s half. Signs of home nerves lurked.
Leading for three-quarters of the tie, it was during the last quartet of minutes that this bestial bereavement took place. Shots on goal had previously teased and taunted the home team, but trauma shuddered through the host’s spine after Spa’s last-gasp pass. A draw it finished as UWE’s advantage diminished.