One-sided matches are often a subject of conflict for a sports fan. Devastating should one’s team be drubbed, and yet the elation one might expect when the tables are turned is very rarely forthcoming. Andrew Cotter, one of the BBC’s top sports correspondents, said in advance of the recent Ryder Cup golf that he, even as a staunch European supporter, would prefer a tight American win to a one-sided contest in favour of the Europeans.
And this was borne out in the event, with the final day somewhat of a fizzle in comparison to the most recent tight contests of Medinah and Celtic Manor. Sure, some excellent golf was played and there were some exciting individual matches, but a winning margin of 17½-10½ to the Europeans was hardly conducive to a nail-biting Sunday afternoon.
A similar fate befell the Men’s Hockey first XI’s fixture against Dundee last Wednesday, with a one-sided contest proving almost a forgone conclusion almost as soon as the match started. It was not unexpected: Saints, relegated twice in the last three seasons, have found themselves in an odd position where they appear to be significantly stronger than their BUCS league thanks to an influx of talented freshers. They began their season with a similarly dominant 9-0 win over the University of Strathclyde’s second XI, while Dundee, for whom this was their first match of the new season, have not won a match since the 2016-2017 season. On paper, it appeared to be no contest. On astro, it was even less of one.
It did not take long for the floodgates to open. After just two minutes, the ball found the back of the Dundee goal, a clinical finish from a ball passed around the keeper which FIFA players might have described as “sweaty.” Unbelievably, the home side should have realistically been two up at that point, with an easy chance missed from almost the first play of the game. The difference in quality was easily noticeable, with the St Andrews men exhibiting far closer control of the ball in possession and passing accuracy far in excess of their opposition.
Momentarily, it appeared as if an upset, while not on the cards exactly, might be in the general vicinity of a piece of paper, as Dundee, having withstood pressure unseen since Trieste saw the bottom of the Marianas Trench, broke free and scored on the counter. This would be the last time that the visitors would have anything like a look in, as not two minutes later, a Dundee short corner was recovered by St Andrews and put past the keeper at the other end for the home side’s second. Their third would follow immediately, with the ball regained from the Dundee defence following the restart and tipped into the goal from a swift ball into the area.
The floodgates open, St Andrews began to score with increasing regularity. Goals four, five, six, and seven all followed in the next 10 minutes. There was little Dundee could do to stop the attacking threat from the home side, with their links between the attack and defence cut off by the wolf pack in the St Andrews attacking midfield, and the lackadaisical passing amongst the defenders themselves leading to multiple goals. The only good sign for the visitors was a strong save from their keeper from a short corner, who was then once again beaten by a sharp finish for the eighth goal for the rampant Saints. Dundee would again break and score on the halftime whistle, but at 8-2 the goal was somehow already a consolation with a full half left to be played.
To their credit, Dundee showed in the second half that they weren’t nearly as poor as the score line might suggest. Their passing was more assured, they seemed to be more comfortable in possession, and it showed in the play, with play end to end for a good 10 minutes after the start of the second half with no goals scored at either end. Their keeper again showed his mettle, with a good double save following a short corner preventing Saints from finding their ninth. They would not be denied for long, as just two minutes later the Dundee defence once again heard the death rattle of another goal being scored following a long corner, and it wouldn’t be too much longer after that before Saints reached double figures, with a flowing attack leading to yet another easy goal.
From there, the match comfortably over, both sides rather drifted into the conclusion of the game. To add insult to injury, the final goal for the home side in the dying seconds would see the ball pass between the Dundee keeper’s legs. The game would finish at 11-2, a result which sees St Andrews move to 6 points in the league with a staggering 18-point goal difference and Dundee rooted to the bottom of the table.
At no point, however, could the game be described as exciting. As in the Ryder Cup, there was some fine hockey played, even by Dundee at times, but even for the players it appeared to be a chore of a game. One would assume that, against the standard of opposition in their current league, the Men’s first XI will find themselves in a comfortable promotion spot come season’s end. Let us hope that they might find some rather more challenging games in the higher leagues.