Irish pair rocked on EHL debuts as Bann edged out and Cookstown undone by Reading

EuroHockey League, round 1.2
Pool F: Banbridge 3 (R McCandless, Scott Forbes, S Dowds) CA Montrouge 4 (T Cariolet, C Thiolon, M Durchon, J Harou)

Banbridge came close to salvaging a vital draw from their opening EHL tie against CA Montrouge but, while they performed well, they will be kicking themselves for not taking more chances and taking at least a share of the spoils.

It leaves them needing a result against two-time champions UHC Hamburg on Sunday, pre-tournament seen as the unrecommended route through the group.

After the start was delayed by half an hour due to a frozen pitch in Antwerp, Bann bounced back well from a nightmare start, falling behind in the fourth minute when Tom Cariolet slammed home a base-line pull-back from Aymeric Bergamo. The IHL champs were certainly the better side in the following phases as Ross McCandless flicked through the French defences to level.

Bruce McCandless missed a gilt-edged chance with a first time sweep after Drew Carlisle and Josh Moffett combined to eliminate goalkeeper Maxine Wilson. They did move ahead when Ross McCandless used his power once more to power-slap a ball through the circle and Scott Forbes popped up at the back post to touch past Wilson.

But the French champions turned the game back their way when they looked at a low ebb as Christophe Thiolon netted from a corner before former French star Matthieu Durchon finished off Joost Jansen’s perfect pass with a delightful touch.

Joris Harou’s goal early in the second half, another perfect touch to a Jansen cross, going high past Gareth Lennox, put Montrouge well clear.

Bann made a strong fist of getting back into the game though their attacks looked slightly one-dimensional at times, seemingly reliant on crash balls into the circle. Dane Ward and Stephen Dowds did go close before Owen Magee’s cross broke to Dowds at the top of the circle and coolly found a route under Wilson on the reverse.

It set up a gutsy final quarter showing, aided by Mikail Azak’s yellow card sin-binning, as Montrouge tied as they only used 13 players in the game. Ross McCandless had a couple of corner shots and there were goal-mouth scrambles, Wilson holding his own and Willy Hoareau while Bruce McCandless’ superb run wreaked havoc.

Dowds’ cross to Ward was intercepted at the last while a corner was awarded with 45 seconds to go but Wilson batted it away and Bann were cruelly denied.

It was a tough way to lose but is one which means they must get a result against Hamburg, though they will draw some solace in that they will not face the injured Motitz Furste nor the departed Carlos Nevado.

They did get one point for losing by less than three goals but it will be scant reward and, combined with Cookstown’s 5-0 loss, might make it somewhat of a scramble to retain two places in the EHL for Ireland.

Banbridge: G Lennox, Stephen Forbes, J Moffett, B McCandless, O Magee, Philip Brown, R McCandless, S McCandless, R Beattie, D Ward, D Carlisle
Subs: Scott Forbes, Peter Brown, M Bell, S Dowds, H McShane, S Caruth

Montrouge: M Wilson, J Harou, N Jansen, T Cariolet, A Bergamo, J Jansen, W Hoareau, M Durchon, E Gourdin, C Thiolon, E Perry
Subs: M Mayer, M Azak

Pool A: Cookstown 0 Reading 5 (A Watts 3, R Mantell 2)
Cookstown endured a tough introduction to life in the EHL against competition veterans Reading who showed some scintillating form with goals in each quarter. Richard Mantell scored a pair of trademark penalty corners for the 2010/11 bronze medal winners before striker Andy Watts nipped in for a second half hat-trick.

It leaves them all but out of the competition unless they can conjure up a serious shock against Amsterdam in game two and hope Sunday’s battle between the ’ding and the Dutch side works in their favour.

It was tough going throughout as younger Mantell brother Simon fired a fizzing low reverse, spinning into the circle after a fine run. Ian Hughes denied Richard’s first corner effort in fine fashion but the second was a ripper, flicking in off the inside of the right post.

He doubled the tally with another blistering corner, his ferocious effort sailing into the top left of the goal. It was a dominant showing, pinning Cookstown back with only sporadic breaks but when the likes of Mark Crooks broke clear, it was tough to get support to follow-up.

And Reading did not let up much in the second half as Watts finished off a slick passing move down the right. Ian Sloan did force a decent save from Nick Brothers from the Co Tyrone side’s second corner of the half – the first was not pulled out properly – as Cookstown did enjoy some more forward mobility.

But Watts notched another pair in the closing period, his hat-trick goal a beauty as dived full length onto Jonty Clarke’s weighted pass.

Speaking afterwards, co-coach Michael Haycock reflected on Cookstown’s introduction to the elite competition.”We are obviously very disappointed with the result but are pleased that at times we attacked well and caused them some problems,” he said.

“At 2-0 at half time we were happy enough and still thought that it was possible to get something from the game. We had a short corner during the opening minutes in the third but we just couldn’t convert.

“We knew that this was going to be a very tough test, but it is a level that takes some getting use to. Richard Mantell’s distribution was outstanding and their out letting and platform was to a very high standard.

“On our own team Timmy Smyth was fantastic and he really did look so comfortable at this level which is very pleasing. We now look forward to Amsterdam tomorrow.”

Cookstown: I Hughes, G Irwin, E Butler, I Sloan, A Barbour, S Sloan, M Crooks, D Best, G Allen, T Smyth, K Black
Subs: M Rollins, R Millar, G Cuddy, T Hutchinson

Reading: N Brothers, R Springham, R Mantell, I Mackay, S Mantell, J Clarke, A Watts, R Slater, T Bertram, T Woolven, C Cargo
Subs: J Codling, C Newman, J Hardy, D Tyler

Pool A fixtures (all Irish time): Cookstown vs Amsterdam H&BC, 11am Saturday; Amsterdam vs Reading, 11am, Sunday
Pool F fixtures: UHC Hamburg vs CA Montrouge, 8.30am Saturday; Banbridge vs UHC Hamburg, 8.30am Sunday

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