CRHC Men’s 1s made the relatively short trip down to Exeter last week ahead of a crunch match with bottom of the league Exeter 2s. Following a disappointing loss to Chichester the week before, another, slightly shorter, away trip offered the opportunity for the boys to get their season back on track. The home side, off the back of their first league win against Cardiff Uni the weekend before, were buoyant and ready to haul themselves back in to contention to stay up in Conference West.
After a quick change for the home team, who turned up in the wrong kit (Silly Fresher!), the boys in white (sporting our away kit) started well, keeping possession of the ball with some nice passing moves which created a number of half chances in an around the home team’s D. Exeter had the first clear cut chance of the game and only a smart save from Robbies keeper Andy Hughes kept the scores level.
The Robbies boys continued to dominate possession and territory for most of the first half, with the press working well and turning over a lot of ball in favour of the away side. New recruit Ken Gainsford worked tirelessly in the midfield, winning the ball back and driving at the defence on a number of occasions. His performance was supported by fellow new recruit Max L-J, who looked dangerous driving out of defence which caused the student team problems throughout the game. However, once again the team struggled to generate any meaningful end product in the opposition D and was unable to convert pressure into clear-cut chances.
A concerted spell of pressure from Exeter saw them create a couple of chances just before the end of the first half. The home side were able to take advantage of this and some loose marking in the Robbies D and, after a scramble in front of goal, two Exeter players found themselves unmarked at the back post and almost proceeded to fall over each other as they tapped the ball home.
Half time. 1-0 to the students. Captain Jamie Mortimore and Coach Fraser Henderson rallied the troops at half time, knowing that the first half had been very finely balanced and that an improvement in end product from the boys from Bristol would see the match turn on its head quickly in the second half.
Robbies struggled to get going after the break and the goal just before half time seemed to give Exeter a lift as they dominated much of the second 35 minutes. Too often were the boys in green able to cut through the Robbies press and find space in the final third. A penalty stroke and well worked 3v1 put Exeter firmly in control in the third quarter, leaving Robbies with a mountain to climb in the final installment of the match.
Having turned round the same deficit in the final quarter against Ashmoor a few weeks earlier, the boys remained upbeat and set out in search of a crucial goal to bring them back in to the match. Alas, it was not to be. Further frustration for the Robbies forwards was compounded when Exeter took advantage of the away team’s aggressive press as they tried to get back into the game. Another attacking overload for the home side left another simple tap in for an unmarked Exeter forward. 4-0.
A final flurry of chances for the confidence-filled Exeter side lead to another penalty stroke after a goal-bound deflection hit former 1s captain Rory Thorburn on the shoulder. Initial worry that the Swansea-born central defender had been hurt was replaced quickly with laughter when it became clear he was only stood on his haunches to avoid a further running around from the sprightly Exeter forwards. A poor penalty stroke was saved, sparing the team’s blushes somewhat.
The Robbies boys will pick themselves up after the loss and go again against Fareham this weekend, knowing that one result is likely to be enough to secure their status in Conference West for another year.