Bridgend Hockey Club were very proud of their men’s !st X1 squad last Saturday when they overcame strong opposition from Swansea University to win the Welsh Shield Knock-out Cup competition held at Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, and in so doing, retain the trophy.
After successfully negotiating the earlier rounds, with a notable victory in the semi-final over Cardiff Medics, Bridgend reached the final for the fifth time in five years – a great achievement in itself.
It was always known that the students would put pressure on Bridgend due to their youth, but Bridgend’s experience, desire and commitment pulled through in the end. After a mix up in defence in front of goal, Swansea went ahead after ten minutes, but Bridgend fought back strongly, with Paul Davies, Neall Hollis and Rhys Owen combining well at the back to work the ball up the flanks with some firm hits to centre forward Nick Anthony, via Jon Rubery and Andy Schofield.
It was from one such movement that Rubery cut a narrow angle in to the circle, and after interpassing from David Knight and Andrew Jones, he made the final touch to score an equaliser midway through the first half.
Swansea came back strongly, but the midfield of Steve Murphy, Andrew Jones and captain Rhydian Cole worked tirelessly to keep Swansea at bay. Adrian Hibbert in goal was always alert, and kept Bridgend in touch with a splendid save.
Bridgend started the second half strongly, and went ahead after two minutes when Anthony scored after a good combined move by the team. Swansea came back strongly, forcing a number of short corners which Hibbert did extremely well to save – he certainly was keeping Bridgend in the game. The defence of Davies, Hollis and Owen made good clearances away from the danger area, to frustrate Swansea, and it was unfortunate for Bridgend to concede a goal towards the end of the half.
Youngsters Tom Hopkins, Richard Knight and Lewis Hearne were brought on and gave fresh legs to support the cause, as did Jon Catton and Paul Jones. A good squad and team commitment.
At 2-2 at the end of normal time, two periods of ten minutes of extra time was played, and midway through the first half, Swansea went ahead. However, Bridgend’s pride and desire to be successful was evident in the second period of extra time, with the experience of Murphy, Davies, Rubery and Jones coming through. Chances were created, and from one of these a penalty flick was awarded to Bridgend that was successfully converted by David Knight. At 3-3, Bridgend’s tails were up, and were encouraged by strong verbal support from their men and ladies club members.
Midway through this final period, Anthony latched on to a defensive slip by Swansea, and headed towards goal, with just the goalkeeper to beat. With careful control, he did just that and put the ball in to the goal to give Bridgend the lead with 5 minutes to go.
Leading 4-3, the final minutes were nailbiting, but all players worked hard to keep Swansea out, not least Hibbert who brought off a magnificent save in the dying seconds.
Celebrations were well founded at the final whistle, giving Bridgend a well deserved victory, for which their Club and Town can be proud.