After an extended winter break due to the weather hockey was back and Oundle were once again on the road, this time to mid table side Mansfield. In the reverse fixture this season Mansfield ran out 2-1 winners after a tightly contested affair. This same fixture last season produced Oundles first clean sheet of the season in a 1-0 win.
In a bitter blow to Oundles survival hopes, Vice Captain Adrian Millan was ruled out for the rest of the season due to a broken thumb which was sustained in the previous game against Beeston. This week also saw the absence of two regulars, Captain Ben Edis who decided he fancied shooting animals instead of the Mansfield goal, and George Martin, who received a late call up by Schoffel for some last minute modelling work.
The game began with an Oundle pushback and the upper hand went to Mansfield, pressure immediately came down the Oundle left, the first cross was poked away by Youngy only to fall to a Mansfield player who shot first time, with Youngy making the save before the clearance from the Oundle defence.
After this early scare, and a spell of pressure from Mansfield Oundle settled into the game and were able to grab a foothold, some direct play down the right resulted in Mansfield winger receiving the first green card of the match and new player Brenners being able to work the space for a shot going narrowly wide.
After this Oundle half chance, the game settled down, Mansfield began to come out on top, focusing their play down the wings they were unable to find the final ball, that was until a cross found a forward on the penalty spot who unleashed his shot towards goal forcing Youngy into a reaction save.
Mansfield were also on top in the short corner department, winning a number of them, the first of these was a sweet shot that was heading for the bottom corner… that was until Ian on the left hand post disdainfully flicked the ball away and out for a long corner. Mansfield next short corner superbly stopped by Jimmy running No 1 in place of the injured vice captain. Mansfield broke out the tricky short corner routines for the next two but were unable to get past Youngy in goal and Jimmy from running No1. The half finished with neither side able to break the deadlock.
After the team talks and the sides had been switched the 2nd half began. The 2nd half started much like the first, with Mansfield applying the majority of the pressure with Oundle looking to hit them on the counter attack. Despite some good distribution from Ellis at centre back, the ball just wouldn’t stick up top, with Mansfield’s defence sniffing out danger quickly.
It was a similar story for Mansfield as they were unable to breakthrough, in fact it took a retreating Willow, who was seeing out his defensive duties, to come the closest for the home team. Cutting out a cross, the ball deflected right on the Oundle goal and forced a smart reaction save from Youngy who was thankfully alert. It was ironically, as close as Willow has come to getting on the scoresheet this season.
As the half wore on the home side did eventually manage to find the breakthrough, running in on goal, shooting on the reverse across goal finding the side netting past the reach of Youngy. The relief on Mansfield faces was palpable, relieved they had finally made the breakthrough and making their pressure tell.
After the goal it was Oundles turn to bite back and win a couple of short corners themselves. Peter ‘Strong and Stable’ Allett going close with a strike that whistled past the left post, and Peter ‘Do you know who i am?’ Ellis forced a smart stop from the Mansfield keeper. With Oundle growing frustrated that manifested itself into a green card for P.Wilson (Phil). Who was green carded not once, but twice. Some trademark Jimmy runs from the back also were unlucky to result in naught for the visitors.
With a man down and pushing for an equaliser it left Oundle more open at the back, with Mansfield winning the ball back deep in their own half they were able to break on the counter. It was a 3 on 1 situation, thankfully the 3 couldn’t beat the 1, putting the ball on Jimmys foot. The umpire originally deemed this as a short corner, but called the foot deliberate and showed Jimmy a yellow card for his trouble.
Acting Captain Ellis was unhappy with this and immediately tried to make his point clear to the umpire. While this was going on, the far side umpire decided that it should be a P-flick instead! This further incensed Oundle especially Ellis and JB, with the latter calling the decision ‘a joke’ the Mansfield umpire heard this and was none too happy with JB.
The person selected to take the Mansfield flick was none other, than their best player, and the person who usually causes the most headaches for the Oundle defence. Youngy and taker both looked calm as they had a chat and joke before the was to be taken. Both teams went to their respective huddles and Youngy slowly walked back to his line, nervous of the fact that he had never saved a P-Flick in the league before. Going 0-3 just this season.
Youngy set himself, staring down the Mansfield player, the silence and tension on a knife edge before the whistle finally blew. A quick glance from the Mansfield player betrayed his intentions, and as soon as the ball was moving so was Youngy. Youngy reached out with his stick high into the top corner and was rewarded with the familiar sound of a hockey ball hitting a hockey stick. FOR HIS FIRST PENALTY SAVE EVER!
Despite this the game was close to its end and it was not long before the full time whistle blew. It was another good performance from Oundle, just unlucky they were unable to find the breakthrough. With both Beeston and Rugby picking up unlikely wins it has made the race for 8th place all the more tougher with 4 teams all fighting for safety.
We go again next week. Returning for our first home fixture of 2024 against top of the league Nottingham Trent Uni 2. HWTL.