Kelburne 3-3 St. Andrew’s Men’s University Hockey 1st XI (St. Andrews win 5-4 on sudden death penalty flicks).

This was one of those performances that will be remembered for a long time, the result even longer. The 13 played as a well drilled cohesive united and more importantly, a well skilled outfit. After all, anything other than exceptional wouldn’t have been enough.

Kelburne, winners of division 1 and a member of the European Hockey League had come down to ‘The Fortress’ to take on the men’s 1st XI in the Scottish cup. Seeing as St. Andrews didn’t even win division 2 finishing third, this should have been a mere formality.

After ten minutes, it seemed that it would be the case. Kelburne were very adept at winning short corners and only goalkeeper James Bowler could keep the score at 0-0. However, after a quarter of an hour even his resistance was broken and it looked like the start of a procession. Despite some promising moves, with forwards Ben Jamieson, Robert Sellar and Luke Mitchinson causing Kelburne’s defence all sorts of problems whenever they went forward, they didn’t have the ball enough to pose a constant threat.

Just before half-time the 40 spectators thought the game was gone. A second goal by Kelburne was a heart-breaker; they were far too technically skilled and physically fit to let a university team back into the game. Not to mention the fact that two GB representatives, Mark Ralph and Michael Christie were in their ranks.

Whatever was said at half-time, if anything, proved critical. St. Andrews looked a side transformed. Maximilian Schulz, or ‘wedding’ as he is known, dominated the midfield alongside auxiliary centre back Dan Maunder and suddenly the three forwards had a constant supply line. Sellar, and Mitchinson especially, started to wreak havoc down the wings and within five minutes of the restart the game was 2-1. Mitchinson’s shot from distance finally got turned in my Sellar after a game of pinball in the D.

This goal provided a wake-up call for Kelburne and their intensity doubled. However, a defence consisting of club president- Mike Thomson, leavers Dodes Page and James Miles plus the new captain Dan Maunder was absolutely solid. Kelburne got no change out of them; they provided an almost impassable wall. And if they did, goalkeeper James Bowler was once again on hand to thwart any opposition who dare try and score. I lost count of the number of saves he made, but it was well into double figures.

This wasn’t to be a plucky, dignified loss though. St. Andrews wanted the win and half-way through the second half the scores were level. Mitchinson once again beat his man on the left to cross for Sellar who completed the mere formality of turning the ball in to the back of the net. It was 2-2 and the smell of blood was in the air.

Kelburne looked rattled, unable to fizz the ball about at their usual pace due to the heavy sanding of the pitch and whenever they tried going over the top, the ever present Thomson was there to cut it out. Tempers began to flare as both sides didn’t want to lose. The St. Andrews boys had worked so hard to get back into it, the Kelburne lads’ pride was on the line.

However, with just over ten minutes to play a wonderful piece of individual skill looked to have decided the game. Picking the ball up almost innocuously on the half-way line, Mitchinson, a contender for man-of-the-match once again started on a slaloming run and after beating three men, admittedly with a slice of fortune on the way, buried the ball in the near post. 3-2; that was it. Half an hour of top-class of hockey had turned the game around, a comeback akin to Liverpool’s in Istanbul in 2005.

But no. Kelburne rallied and with five minutes remaining scored an equaliser. It was a blow but heads stayed up and Jamieson still had a couple of chances to win it but was denied by some sensational goal-keeping on the Kilburne side. After seventy-minutes it was 3-3, penalty flicks were called for.

The five men were chosen, it was now a matter of who could hold their nerve. Jamieson took the first one for St. Andrews and finished confidently whilst Mitchinson scuffed his but luckily found the backboard. Captain Maunder scored the third after Kelburne had scored their first two. After goal-keeper Bowler superbly saved Kelburne’s third the next two were both slotted home exquisitely. It came down to the final flick. Club-president Thomson stepped up looking to shoulder the burden and help the team into the next round.

The Kelburne keeper’ however guessed correctly and kept his team in it. This was when heads could have easily gone down; being the second time they were unable to see out the game versus superior opposition. Instead, they rallied again. Jamieson once again slotted home in the sudden death and then Kelburne missed. A flick pulled horribly wide by none other than Ralph.

There was a moment’s hesitation; the reality didn’t quite kick in straight away. Then, an almighty roar of delight and relief went up among the players. Sheer, irrepressible joy was the overriding feeling. Each player strode off the pitch like a champion. Rightly so, this was a performance out of the top drawer, one which will forever be recalled in the annals of the men’s hockey club for years to come. The petition to ask for a open top bus parade down Market Street, the freedom of the town and subsidised alcohol in local pubs is being drafted as you read this article, arguably the only fitting reward for this most he- roic of sporting endeavours.

The celebrations no doubt continued well into the night, but it was a day to be savoured; a great day for the club that won’t be forgotten for a long time. Although slightly in jest, the club’s Twitter account tweeted after the game “to clarify, Forest Green have just beaten Chelsea”. This wasn’t a giant killing on quite the same scale, but nonetheless it was a miraculous result. And don’t get me wrong, it was more than deserved.

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