As the sun’s rays cascaded through the trees on a blissful spring-like afternoon, St Andrews’ 1stXI Hockey team were gearing up for one of the most important games of the season against top of the league Glasgow. Glasgow, undefeated in the league, presented quite the challenge to a St Andrews team which had been unfortunate to come off the worse in a series of close games this season, losing to Glasgow away 1-0 earlier in the year. Nevertheless, St Andrews were more than up for the occasion, with a spirited and passionate display rewarded with a vital 5-3 win.
The circumstances of the game were truly precarious, with St Andrews all but certainly needing a win in order to help ensure they would avoid relegation from 1A, with the team sitting second bottom of the league. After a 4-4 draw in their last game at Aberdeen, a win would put the team on 11 points, aiding their bid of staying up this season.
St Andrews got off to the worst possible start in the first minute. An aggressive run down the left hand side from Glasgow’s Robert Nimmo was left unchallenged, allowing him to slip the ball past goalkeeper Ben Hawken to give Glasgow the lead. Things went from bad to worse just a few minutes later, as a saved short corner failed to be cleared, allowing Glasgow to thrust in a second, giving them a 0-2 lead in this most vital of games. Glasgow continued to pepper the St Andrews goal, with Hawken making a number of assured saves to ensure the score remained at 0-2.
As the atmosphere on the touchline turned to despair, the team recovered from their slovenly start to put some pressure on the Glasgow goal. As the temperature grew colder and the shadows grew longer, St Andrews thrived. Winning a short corner, forward Duncan Rudd found the net, bring St Andrews right back into the match.
The remainder of the half was a scrappy affair, before St Andrews, right on the stroke of half time, took advantage of a Glasgow green card, scoring a second in the most disjointed of fashions, the ball taking two deflections before being bundled in by impact man Chris Moon. As the halftime whistle blew, St Andrews may well have felt themselves fortunate to be level, although they returned to the dugout the more optimistic of the two sides.
The beginning of the second half could not have contrasted the beginning of the first more, with St Andrews coming out with a renewed energy and blistering pace. St Andrews dominated the first 5 minutes, with Moon piercing the Glasgow D with a searing run and cross, which was gleefully placed into the goal by Oscar Dalrymple to give St Andrews the lead 3-2.
St Andrews’ dominance was further rewarded, after an adventurous run from Connor Trimble allowed him to cross in to Moon, who did the rest of the work, doubling the lead to 4-2.
The second half had barely begun, and Glasgow now began to show signs of the form that had led them to the top of the table. Renewing their offensive, some attractive play saw them hit the post before eventually finding the net to pull one back 4-3. The pressure ramped up, and the game became more and more heated, with both sides having numerous opportunities and exchanging frequent pleasantries with their opponents.
Duncan Rudd came to the rescue, taking advantage of some sloppy Glasgow defending to steal the ball, drive forward into the D, and place the ball gracefully into the bottom corner, giving St Andrews a commanding 5-3 lead with a delightful poachers effort.
Glasgow, their undefeated record on the line, surged forward, only to be prevented by some stalwart St Andrews defending. The final whistle was greeted with a pitch invasion, while the Glasgow players stood motionless and despondent, both sides realising the importance of this victory on the outcome of their respective seasons. St Andrews’ win makes Glasgow’s route to the title more difficult, with them now level on points with Heriot-Watt, facing a far from simple game away at Aberdeen to finish the season.
For St Andrews, this win gives them a good chance of remaining in 1A next season, with only a match against a hapless bottom of the league Abertay remaining. A win here against Glasgow was perhaps the best showcase for how tight a league Scottish 1A can be, and hopefully this gutsy performance will ensure they will continue to play in it next season.