By Jay Caboz
Wits Men Hockey still intend to push for a first place finish regardless of narrowly losing their first game of the season 4-7 against Wanderers A.
The students “never say die” attitude was just not enough to scrape an upset against a Wanderers side that could field a full bench of former and current South African national hockey players.
Wits started the game well with a number of positive manoeuvres through the field. They seemed likely to open the scoring but could not find a gap to the back of the net through Wanderers keeper Michael Smith.
Shots were exchanged in both halves but with little effect until Wanderers won a penalty corner in the 8th minute. Wits keeper Cole Zondagh rushed the top of the Wanderers castle but was not quick enough to intercept a slip which was then slammed home courtesy of a Wanderers drag flick.
The shot was contested by the Wits side after it looked like it was illegally hit but the goal was not overturned.
Wits were able to shake off the goal and came back with a response in the 12th minute when Wits’ Jared Povall executed a slip drag of his own during a penalty corner that finally beat Smith.
Wanderers’ adopted an unconventional press system which gave Wits a number of problems. As a result Wits’ conceded a number of turnovers in their own half. A succession of dubious tackles resulted in Wits giving away a field goal in the 13th minute and then another in a penalty corner in the 15th to put Wanderers two goals ahead.
The cushion was broken in the final minute before half-time when Wits’ Stuart Philip managed to scramble a shot on target during an overtime penalty corner. It was Wanderers’ turn to contend the goal after the ball had “left the playing circle twice” rendering the corner over. Their query was ignored by the referees.
Wanderers dominated the opening period of the second half and Wits, uncharacteristically, did not seem to have an answer. Wits conceded two more field goals and another goal from a penalty corner to put the score at 2-6 in the 34th minute, with six minutes of play.
But the game was not quite set and buried. Wanderers’ Lance Louw was sent marching off with a five minute penalty for complaining to the referee, and gave Wits a chance of coming back.
Povall slotted a penalty corner and then three minutes later in the 40th minute made a brilliant deflection to beat Smith and score a hat trick. But it was too late for the Witsies who conceded another goal in the dying seconds to end the game 4-7 against the students.