Sheffield Hallam’s men broke their NOW:Pensions Premier Division duck on Sunday with a well-deserved 3-1 victory at Loughborough Students.
Hallam, who have performed admirably all season without reaping the benefits, played with purpose and determination from the start of their clash with the students, and were finally rewarded for their efforts.
Sheffield were 1-0 up within ten minutes, when a well-worked penalty corner ended with a perfect drag flick from Gareth Furlong.
More good news for Hallam came later in the half, when a great passing move saw Scottish international Gavin Byers cut inside from the left and strike past a flat-footed keeper from top of the circle.
Loughborough came out after the break determined not to let the game slip away from them, and they pulled one back 13 minutes into the half when a scrappy ball fell to Chris Griffiths.
Despite yellow card sin-bin offences by Liam Ansell, Will Hearne and Christy Walklin, Hallam continued to hold out as Loughborough continued their search for an equaliser.
That pressure increased with four minutes to go when Loughborough took off their goalkeeper, playing with 11 outfield players.
Hallam stood firm, however and put the game beyond doubt soon after when a penalty stroke was awarded, after a Loughborough player stopped the ball on the line with his foot. Furlong stepped up and slotted it home in the bottom left corner, giving Sheffield their first crucial three points in the top division.
The games don’t get any easier for Hallam, however, as English hockey superstars Reading travel to Abbeydale Park this Saturday.
Reading, who perform in the EuroLeague later this month, are one of the fancied teams in the division, and Hallam will enter the clash as definite underdogs.
Reading are currently third, and Hallam lie eighth - two places above the bottom of the table. Cannock, Loughborough, Hallam and Canterbury are only seperated by goal difference.
“Wins against other lower end teams are crucial,” Hallam’s Andy Pettigrew said, “but the odd point or three picked up against ‘the big boys’ could also play a part in the race to avoid the bottom end come the end of the season.”
Hallam’s women, meanwhile, banished the memory of the previous weekend’s defeat to Lancaster, with a 2-0 victory over Whitley Bay.
Jemima Board’s first goal at North Premier level set the ball rolling, and Caroline Barclay’s strike sealed the win.
n Sheffield Bankers retained their undefeated record after a 4-2 victory over Chester at Goodwin Sports Centre.
Man of the match Owen Davies opened the scoring on 23 minutes, from close in, but Chester - who included John Roper, the brother of former Hallam star Phil, hit back with a quick equaliser.
Bankers’ heads didn’t drop, however, and on 41 minutes Jimmy Osborne made up for his earlier miss by finishing off a well worked move.
It was 3-1 when yet another clever move from defence saw new boy Nick Fletcher net the best goal of the game.
Chester fought back once again with a long ball breakaway and score with a thunderous shot from the right of the circle with five minutes to go.
Aussie star Chuck Inglis showed why he is such a highly-rated prospect two minutes later, finishing the game off with a vital strike.
“It was a well merited win,” said Bankers chairman Bob Hindle, “which will see us travel to Preston in good heart this Saturday.”
Bankers’ seconds lost 3-1 away at Norton, while the womens first team hammered Driffield 7-1.
“If they continue to play this well, a fourth promotion on the trot is on the cards,” Hindle added.