James Royce - Leading goal scorer
Photographer - Andy Smith

University of Exeter Hockey: Premier Class

University of Exeter bounced back to the England Hockey League top flight at the first attempt following a remarkable 5-2 2011 Men's Promotion Tournament win over unbeaten Southgate at Cannock Hockey Club.

Men's Conference West champions Exeter topped the four-team play off group to clinch Premier Division promotion following a topsy-turvy tournament, settled by the narrowest of margins: goal difference.

Day 1 Exeter v Canterbury 3-1 win
It was a game of two halves with Exeter University running out winners 3-1 against Canterbury. Ian Haley took advantage of some hesitancy in the Canterbury defence to score from close range on eight minutes and Tom Carson made it two soon afterwards. Exeter were on top for the rest of the half but didn’t convert this into a goal until early in the second when James Royce scored. After this Canterbury raised their game and forced a series of penalty corners but couldn’t get past Tom Millington in the Exeter goal who was in fine form. Michael Farrer finally got them on the scoresheet from a corner on 52 minutes but despite further pressure Exeter stood firm to earn the three points.

Day 2 Exeter V Durham 4-5 loss
It didn’t seem possible that the last match of the day could live up to the previous matches earlier in the day – but it did as Durham beat Exeter 5-4 in the University Challenge to keep their (and all other teams’) hopes of qualifying alive. Durham raced into a two goal lead within 10 minutes when Paddy Harman netted with a close range deflection and George Scott scored from a narrow angle. John Sterlini hit back for Exeter on 30 minutes and with the half time hooter having sounded James Royce scrambled the ball home from a corner to make it 2-2. If Exeter thought that the game was turning their way they were soon proved wrong as Dan Coultas scored from a stroke then converted a corner via the post and Exeter keeper Millington’s helmet to put Durham 4-2 up on 52 minutes. They held a two goal advantage until nine minutes were left when Royce scored his second from a corner and three minutes later Carson levelled things up also from a set piece. Exeter looked the more likely winners but Durham dug deep and when they earned a corner in the last minute Coultas powered it home to seal an epic win, meaning any of the four men’s teams, including Canterbury who have lost twice, could still qualify on Monday.

Day 3 Exeter v Southgate 5-2 win
The final men’s matches burst into action on the final day. Canterbury were 2-1 up on Durham University within 15 minutes with a super strike from Liam Foster and a goal from Tom Butt sandwiching Paddy Harman’s deflected goal for Durham. The 2-1 scoreline remained until half time. Meanwhile Exeter University were running riot on the other pitch against Southgate who were missing injured captain Dan Shingles and Matt Grinham suspended for the game after two yellows the previous two days. Two corner deflections from Rob Mugridge and two open play goals from James Royce put them 4-0 up at the break.
Into the second half Southgate pulled two early goals back from a Kloess corner and Rob Schilling whilst Durham went on late scoring spree to move from 2-1 down to 5-2 up within the space of 13 minutes – Dan Coultas, Matt Hodgson (2) and Mark Galloway scoring. It became 5-2 on both pitches when Exeter scored through Tom Carson which was how that game finished and that result ensured Exeter’s promotion. Southgate watched the last two minutes of the Durham game knowing that two more goals for the Students would see them take second place however it was not to be but in a further twist Durham’s Galloway and Canterbury’s Michael Farrer were both red carded for second yellow card offences in the final minute.

Date: 4 May 2011