The first game of a new calendar year is a momentous occasion for any team in any sport, especially one that has endured a long break from their last fixture, as it gives them the opportunity to cast aside any failures or successes from the past year and start afresh. This is exactly what the Men’s Hockey first team did on Wednesday by seeing off Edinburgh twos 2-0 in a contest which saw the hosts on the back foot for much of the encounter but ultimately enjoy greater cutting edge in attack to seal victory and widen the gap between themselves and the visitors from the capital in the Scottish Division 1A standings.
Pleasant sunshine was a constant throughout this clash, adding to the expansive approach adopted by both sides, at times albeit with the temperature hovering just above freezing and an icy breeze accompanying proceedings. No sooner had the game began than Edinburgh started to assert control, with St Andrews somewhat jittery in playing the ball out of defence, squandering possession multiple times in the opening exchanges although the hosts were somewhat fortunate Edinburgh couldn’t convert these promising platforms offered to them. This sequence continued and with seven minutes gone the visitors missed the best chance of the nascent contest as their attackers pounced on errors in the Saints defence but their forward could only fire wide from a matter of yards away. Following this major let-off, the Saints slowly grew into the game, enjoying prolonged periods of possession and greater levels of territory mainly through counter-attacking platforms.
A first flashpoint in the encounter followed soon after Edinburgh’s first clear-cut chance as one of the visiting forwards was felled in the St Andrews D, resulting in a penalty corner which would have given the men in green the lead were in not for some determined defensive play from the Saints. Still though, the hosts were struggling to piece together serious attacking moments with the Edinburgh goalkeeper enjoying an uneventful afternoon thus far. This was all about to change however as somewhat against the run of play the Saints took the lead with their first shot of the game, with Andrew Devine maintaining his composure in the D to turn and finish low into the left hand corner of the goal.
Buoyed by this, St Andrews went on to enjoy their best period of the game with long spells of possession and some more decent chances although Edinburgh also had some opportunities of their own, being denied only by inspired keeping and lacklustre finishing. On the verge of halftime, the Saints had a glorious chance to double their lead with their first penalty corner of the game stemming from a foot in the D foul from the visitors but were unable to convert this clear opportunity and the half ended with just one score being the difference.
The second period began with a renewed push from Edinburgh to draw level but it was in fact a defensive error in the early stages that nearly resulted in the Saints scoring, this emphasising the extent in which this game could go either way. The growing frustration being felt by the visitors at the score line was clear and resulted in numerous instances of dissent towards the umpires that could easily have resulted in a card being shown although unfortunately for the Saints this never happened.
As with the first half however, the Saints began to flourish after a nervy start and continually managed to set up platforms for attack without ever seriously challenging the Edinburgh defence. This was up until roughly the halfway stage of the second half, when St Andrews pounced on an unfortunate defensive slip to score a priceless second within the context of the clash as it proved to ultimately be the final score in the game. In response to going two goals down the Edinburgh attacks became somewhat desperate as time began to run out on their chances of mounting a comeback. Despite this though, the Saints defence held firm and indeed the hosts were gifted more chances in attack as gaps emerged in Edinburgh’s defence while fatigue also crept into the play on both sides, stretching the game further somewhat.
Eventually though the final stages of the game were to follow the familiar theme of the visitors having a monopoly on territory and possession without ever really producing a moment of true quality to threaten the Saints’ clean sheet. This can perhaps be most clearly seen by the two penalty goals awarded to Edinburgh in the closing stages that were both badly squandered and indicative of the lack of confidence the visitors suffered going forward throughout the encounter. This obviously was of little bother to the hosts however, who ultimately closed out a well-deserved victory over their fierce rivals and ensured they go into their home clash against Strathclyde firsts next Wednesday brimming with confidence.