Honours even at Hallam
By Adam Chard
Smith & Hardeman goals help end losing streak with battling draw.
Sheffield Hallam Men’s 5s 2
Driffield Men’s 2s 2
YHA League Division 2
Saturday 1st December 2018
Abbeydale Sports Centre, Sheffield
3. Billam T
5. Hickie ©
8. Needham W
9. Needham O
After 4 defeats on the bounce, Driffield Men’s 2nd XI were looking to stop the rot with a trip to Sheffield Hallam 5s. With both teams close on point and looking down at the foot of the table, rather than the top, this was guaranteed to be a keenly fought encounter.
Despite the usual front line partnership of Mike Sowersby and Harry Billam being unavailable for selection, The Woldsmen could call upon Ben Miller and Jack Hardeman to shore up the midfield, whilst impressive youngster Olly Needham started up front alongside Dad Will Needham on the wing. One major boost for Driffield was the return of Willem Smith, back after a serious leg injury.
With a very late push back time of 4:30pm, the game began under floodlights, on the former London Olympics pitch with its blue and pink surface. Driffield grasped the nettle very early on with Knapton and Miller combining well in the middle, allowing the visitors to attack with purpose.
At the back, Captain Graham Hickie was pulling the strings, clearing the Driffield lines when required, alongside the veteran Charlie Hall whose experience has been invaluable in recent weeks.
A flowing move involving Miller, Olly Needham and Jono Trowsdale nearly led to the first goal of the game, however, the blonde-haired striker saw his effort go agonisingly wide.
Driffield were clearly the better side in the opening 20 minutes, with Tom Billam putting plenty of hard yards in, tackling back and using his pace to unlock the Sheffield midfield. However, once too often Driffield’s final ball was rushed, allowing Sheffield to get back into the match.
On 20 minutes, against the run of play, the home side scored. A poor pass across the top of the circle was intercepted by a Sheffield attacker, followed by a rather fortuitous deflection which fell kindly at a second striker’s feet. He made no mistake with his diving finish.
Despite going behind, Driffield certainly weren’t disheartened and the visitors soon forced a penalty corner. Willem Smith, on from the bench, drag flicked to the keeper’s right, forcing him into a fine save.
However, the pressure was building and, with just 5 minutes left, Driffield won another penalty corner. This time Willem Smith’s flick was deflected by a Sheffield defender past his own keeper for the equaliser.
Shortly before the half time break, Jonathan Trowsdale showed skill by playing the ball around a defender and running on to it. As he broke into the circle he appeared to be taken out by a defender off the ball, however no whistle came.
Half time: Sheffield Hallam 5s 1 Driffield 2s 1
In such a tight match, the next goal would be crucial and Driffield came out with renewed determination. Olly Needham was working well with the impressive Matthew Knapton on the right, making some excellent runs into the circle, although the Sheffield defence proved resolute.
Driffield thought they’d gone into the lead when a ball into the circle from Willem Smith was deflected by Ashley Ewbank, flying just inches past the left hand post.
As the half wore on, Sheffield began to assert their dominance, maintaining possession well and frustrating the Woldsmen. This frustration was compounded by some dangerous play which went unpunished including a number of blatant fouls on Ben Miller. Indeed, Driffield felt very aggrieved when they conceded a penalty corner, straight after a dangerous aerial ball from a Sheffield attacker. Thankfully, Tom Billam and Graham Hickie were out quickly, forcing the striker to pull the ball wide of goal.
Frustration was finally to get the better of the Woldsmen, when they conceded another penalty corner. The resulting set play quickly found a Sheffield attacker, whose quick strike beat both Chard and Hall on the line.
With just 12 minutes to go, Driffield finally found another gear and took the game to their opponents. Will Needham on the right wing was proving a great outlet, whilst Joe Watson pushed up into the attack when required.
After winning a penalty corner, Willem Smith flicked towards goal. The ever-alert Jack Hardeman flung his stick at ball and deflected past the keeper and defender on the line for the equaliser.
With a valuable point within their grasp, Driffield slowed the game down, keeping hold of possession for the last few minutes.
Full time: Sheffield Hallam 5s 2 Driffield 2s 2
This was a hard-fought point for a side that badly needed to end their losing streak. Sheffield Hallam were certainly no pushovers and it is matches like these which the Woldsmen will need to start winning to ensure safety at the end of the season.
This Saturday, Driffield travel to bottom-placed Halifax 2s for their final match of 2018. They’ll be hoping to replicate the 8-0 win they secured against them on the opening day of the season.
Man of the Match: Jack Hardeman—played his midfield role well and topped his performance off with the equalising goal.