Frozen pitches and the resulting cancellations presented the UWMHC with a (nearly) full two days of fixtures for the weekend of Week 16, whilst they were still looking to find their feet again after a indulgent Christmas period. A couple of training sessions had also fallen to the weather, and the added strain of a lack of minibuses meant that the boys were in for a hectic week. As the cold finally abated, a hastily organised practice match between the 1s and 2s on Wednesday looked to be well justified, as the 1s in particular struggled to find their rhythm. However, the frustrating match seemed to serve as the shock that was required, and a very positive training session on the Friday night looked to set all teams up well for the big weekend.
The 1s made the long jouney to Newcastle-under-Lyme to play second in the league North Staffs. A high quality first half saw the teams very evenly matched, and after taking the lead through a Harry Wilson drag flick, the students were pulled back to parity shortly before half time through a scrappy North Staffs goal. The rest of the game, however, was characterised by some strange umpiring decisions resulting in Warwick being yellow carded no less than 3 times, and therefore effectively playing the remainder of the game with 10 men. A great defensive effort was finally broken, and with NS leading 2-1, the strain of playing with 10 finally told, and with the mag men dead on their feet yet pushing for an equaliser, NS hit back hard and slotted 3 quick goals in the final 5 minutes to give them a very flattering 5-1 scoreline. Positive signs for the boys though.
The 2s continued their fine form on the Saturday, banging in more goals, a dominant Matt Williams slotting his third hat-trick of the season, and by all accounts an outrageous goal from the ever mysterious Rich Smith. Flair player. The 3s, meanwhile, were presented with the tough task of entertaining 3rd-placed Birmingham Uni 3s at Westwood, and came away on the wrong end of a 6-2 scoreline, though a positive couple of goals from Robbie Newport and Dave Dougall.
The Sunday saw most of the magnificent men emerge slightly bleary-eyed after the previous evening’s fine festivities, which saw many an old boy return for one of the most successful School Dayz efforts in recent memory. Some freshers even turned up. Good work chaps. The 1s managed to blow off any lingering cobwebs, however, with a solid warm-up under the leadership of Peter Gow; club captain Mark Bridger cruelly struck out of the contest with a knee injury that had been exacerbated by his exertions the day before. Undeterred, the boys bounced back from Saturday’s defeat exceptionally well, with slick, calm passing and movement to display possibly their best hockey of the season. When things could have begun to fall apart as Wolves pulled level at 1-1, the 1s kept their calm and hit back with some liquide moves, eventually coming away 3-1 winners against the third ranked team in the league. Cue jubilation.
In a very tough weekend of fixtures, the 2s travelled away to top placed Loughborough Students, and despite an early start after the night before, turned in a very good performance against the runaway league-leaders, narrowly losing 5-3. The 3s welcomed Stourport to Fortress Westwood, and in a very tight game produced some excellent play. They left very unfortunate to lose 2-1, a JT smash providing the goal. Frustratingly the team had other chances, notably in the first half when Robbie Newport did everything right to skillfully round the keeper, but subsequently failed to provide the finish.
The 4s also kicked into action on the Sunday, and provided a great display against an unusually strong Worcester side; this was a team that had only mustered one point before Sunday’s encounter. Despite this sudden and substantial (and suspicious?) improvement in ability from their opposition, the 4s played very well to restrict them for most of the match, but eventually came away 5-0 losers in unfortunate circumstances.