Conditions may have been perfect, the sky may have been completely cloudless, yet the St Andrews men’s hockey 1st XI were unable to live up to the occasion, with the visitors from Aberdeen ultimately taking the spoils from this lunchtime showdown in the sports centre by 3 goals to 1. The Saints were looking to build upon their 4-2 victory over Abertay the previous week, yet it didn’t take long for both players and spectators to realise the hosts would be in for a far tougher challenge this time round as a threatening shot across the D five minutes in from Aberdeen was narrowly turned away. The hosts were struggling to string together moves and play out from the back and it was only a matter of time before Aberdeen got their opener on the second of back-to-back short corners courtesy of a deflected shot past the keeper.
This, however, seemingly shot St Andrews into action. Shortly after a short corner of their own was blocked, an alert finish from Duncan Rudd from inside the D saw the Saints draw level as the match was getting well underway. However, if the hosts were hoping this would prove a turning point they were to be mistaken. Just a matter of minutes later a period of intricate play for the visitors ultimately resulted in their forward tapping into an empty net to restore their advantage and leave the Saints behind once again. Soon after this though, the Saints began to get things going. They were comfortably enjoying their best period of the game as they chased a second equaliser. They were beginning to test the Aberdeen keeper with regularity and also had a goal disallowed proving that they had the ability for a victory.
While the pressure piled up however, the visitors ultimately weathered the storm and actually finished the half the strongest of the two sides. Indeed they were extremely close to a third with the clock ticking down with their forward diverting a cross agonisingly wide, much to the torment of the visitors’ bench, and also had other opportunities to increase their advantage. When the halftime whistle eventually sounded, St Andrews were probably relieved to be only one goal down. Their new pressing system introduced this year clearly yet to be fully embraced by the players, understand ably so with it only being a few weeks into the new season.
The boys could take comfort however from the fact that they were still firmly in the contest, and that they had enjoyed some encouraging periods of play. The second half began in a much more sedate fashion, with the first period of the half containing precious few chances as the Saints looked to consolidate themselves and Aberdeen seemed content with holding their slender lead. However, that all changed as back-to-back short corners for the visitors nearly resulted in a third. The Saints’ best chance of the half would stem from a counter-attack soon after that saw them 3-on-1 with the keeper, but unfortunately this was to be wasted with a shot right at the goal. With ten minutes to go, the hosts were really starting to turn up the pressure with extended periods of possession in the final third. Their fitness was evident, yet they just lacked the required composure at crucial intervals. This deficit would ultimately cost them.
With 5 minutes to go Aberdeen converted a shot from the middle just outside the D to settle the debate and prompt delighted celebrations in the away ranks. Somewhat understandably, a completely deflated St Andrews limped through the final passages of play, nearly conceding again, before the whistle eventually sounded. While the Saints showed glimmers of their promise and could not be faulted for their commitment, ultimately this result may act as a wake-up call ahead of the future challenges they are to face in the coming weeks.