After the previous week’s harsh 3-0 defeat at St Albans, Cambridge came straight out of the blocks against an experienced Chelmsford side that had registered only a single defeat in their last ten league games.
Will Harrison got the Blues off to a perfect start, firing home from a short corner after 15 minutes. Cambridge dominated possession but, as has so often been the case this season, could not seem to capitalise on this advantage. At 1-0, the Blues were in a precarious position, until Balding drilled in a cross for fresher Bristow, whose deft touch guided the ball home to double the students’ lead.
As the first half wore on and Chelmsford applied pressure to a disciplined Cambridge defence, David McLean launched a devastating counter-attack down the left wing to set up Howell, who rounded the keeper and produced an emphatic finish from a tight angle.
The second half threw the contrasting fitness levels of both teams into sharp relief, as Cambridge’s possession-based game took its toll on a skilful yet tiring Chelmsford side that was limited to sporadic counter-attacks. One such attack led to a short corner, which beat keeper Graeme Morrison to give some hope to the visitors. The Blues, however, had other plans, and quickly hit back with strikes from Hardy and Cairns. At 5-1, it was job done for Cambridge, although the Blues could have increased their lead further were it not for some key interventions by the Chelmsford goalkeeper.
In a season that got off to an unconvincing start, it seems that Cambridge have hit their stride at just the right time. With Varsity only days away, this convincing victory against a side two places and 7 points ahead of Cambridge in the East League will fill the Blues with confidence going into this weekend’s fixtures at home against West Herts (Saturday) and at Southgate against Oxford.
Captain Felix Styles can count upon an experienced line-up, with nine members of last year’s squad returning to Varsity action. In addition, freshers Bristow, Rich and Howell have bolstered the attack, with the latter’s man-of-the-match performance against Chelmsford a sign of the striker’s recent form. Ex-England youth international Sachin Jivanji has also added to the quality up front, while, Jasper Joyce and Giles Kilbourn comfortably made the step up from the second team at the beginning of the season. Sam Bowker’s prolific record for the 2nd team earned him a call-up to the Blues squad in January.
The 113th Varsity match promises to be an closely contested encounter, with both sides on good form going in to the fixture. The match will be held on Sunday 10th March at Southgate Hockey Centre, in London. The hockey club are putting on supporters’ coaches, leaving from Wilberforce at 11.30am. Booking tickets could not be easier.
Photos by Julie Harrison