North Notts 3
Derwent Hockey Club 1sts 2
Derwent took the positives, but not the points, from their return to the East Midland Premier League at the weekend.
And although the Wirksworth side came home empty-handed, they left the game in positive mood after pushing a strong North Notts side all the way.
After being promoted last season, an opening game away against a side tipped for promotion was always going to be a stiff test. But after weathering an early spell of pressure, Derwent struck.
Luke Boden, who joined Derwent from Belper over the summer, put in a strong tackle and immediately fed the ball into Steve Langrick. Langrick rampaged down the right wing, linking up superbly with fellow attacker Rich Wildgoose.
The pair combined brilliantly cutting the North Notts defence apart with speed and precision. With the focus of the North Notts on the two forwards, they failed to spot the run of Dean Stevens, who arrived on the back post unmarked to slot home into an open goal.
Visibly stunned, the goal sparked North Notts into life.
Piling on the pressure, they stretched the Derwent defence, trying to find a way to get back on equal terms.
However, Derwent were guilty of giving their opponents a big helping hand. Veteran defender Adam Orduna made a rash challenge, and was immediately sinbinned.
North Notts immediately made Derwent pay and regained parity from a penalty corner.
The impressive Allan Butler fired home, leaving Derwent keeper Jamie Carlin with no chance. Things were to get worse only two minutes later.
Derwent failed to clear a goalmouth scrammble, and when the ball fell to Butler, he made no mistake and flicked the ball home.
The second half saw Derwent play some scintillating hockey.
The passing and interchange was leaving North Notts chasing the game, but just when things were getting interesting, Derwent hit the self-destruct button again.
This time James Bolus was sin binned for a mistimed tackle, and he was followed to the sin bin seconds later when Luke Boden questioned a decision, which left the umpire with little option.
Now playing with just nine men on the pitch, Derwent were unlocked again, when this time William Butler scored from close range.
Derwent held on with nine men, but when parity in numbers returned, so did their fortunes.
Dean Stevens used his skills and speed to break free from his marker. He slotted a slide rule pass through to Wildgoose, who calmly split the defence to set up Rob Bristow. Bristow’s first time slap left the North Notts keeper with no chance, and Derwent were back in the game.
The final ten minutes saw Derwent search for the equaliser.
And despite going close, they were unable to find a way through.
The final whistle was greeted by cheers from the North Notts players, who knew they had been in a really competitive game.
Despite the loss, Derwent coach Heath Roberts was in an unusually buoyant mood. “I don’t mind admitting that before this game I was concerned about how we would get on.
“North Notts are a very strong and well-organised side, who constantly challenge for promotion.
“So to come here on our first fixture and put in such a good performance leaves me feeling very positive.
“We do have to cut out the silliness. North Notts scored all of their goals when we had players in the sin bin. We have to learn from this and realise we are now playing at a higher level, against high level opposition with high level officials.”
Roberts was also pleased with his two debutants.
“Luke Boden I’ve known for a long time, so I know the talent he is going to bring to this squad. But Ian Wilson has been a revelation.
“Making the transition from playing in the lower tier to East Mids Premier, he’s making it look easy.
“He’s still getting used to the pace of the game, but he’s one of those players who will learn and get better every game.”
With players coming back into the squad for their first home game, Derwent will be looking to secure their first points of the season on Saturday when they take on former National League side, Nottingham.
It’s a 1pm start at Wirksworth Leisure Centre.