Author: Sam Mawer
The excitement in the air for the dawn of the new season was palpable as the new look Men’s 2XI team arrived in Harrogate. There was, naturally, some trepidation too as those players who were present during the ill fated 2020/21 season recounted the horrific events of Harrogate away almost a year ago to the day. Luckily, with last season being declared null and void, that 8-2 loss never actually happened and has been erased from the history books. With that thought in mind, further conversation about that day was banned and attentions turned to the match in hand.
Late call up Torquil Hall was brimming with pride as he chose his favourite spot on the bench to watch the action unfold, but he was soon left to wonder whether all North Prem games were played at walking pace. It was a warm day, and there were strong rumours circulating that certain members of the team had not hydrated correctly pre-game, particularly another debutant Paul Holmes who was punished by having to play the full 70 minutes at centre half. It was perhaps natural that after a long time off, both teams spent the opening exchanges playing quite safe hockey, getting a feeling for the other team. Within two minutes, young Carrick Matthews was so desperate for a sit down that he took a wild swing through a Harrogate stick in a bid for a green card. After being initially frustrated by only receiving a warning, he followed it up immediately with an identical tackle and left the pitch with a smug look of satisfaction to take his place on the naughty step. This was the first of many cards during a match that was by no means bad tempered, but featured some questionable tackling.
Leeds could easily have gone into half time in the lead, having made several positive attacks into the Harrogate D resulting in some good saves by the ‘keeper and some slightly wasteful finishing. The best interchange came from a lovely passage of play between Granddad Deano and young pretender Agar-Brennan. Danny fed a great ball into Deano, who used the run of Danny as a decoy and turned his man expertly, getting a shot away at goal which was saved by a goalkeeper who must have felt like he was living a charmed life. Shortly after this Torquil Hall entered the action, going on a mazy dribble into the circle and making everyone feel dizzy before miscalculating a reverse stick shot towards the head of the waiting forwards. Amongst other half chances, Harrogate had their moments. Leeds had the sharp reflexes of Jacob Smith and his defenders to thank for keeping out a flurry of short corners before heading into the half time break at 0-0.
Leeds looked to the wise words of new coach Lucy Horsfield to guide them through what would be a hard fought second half. Unfortunately, Lucy must have got bored around the 15 minute mark and had left the scene. It was left to veteran Mawer to impart his wisdom. He suggested that the team should try very hard to win.
And so it came to pass.
Leeds started the second half strongly, looking dangerous on the counter attack. It wasn’t long before another debutant showed his credentials, Leon Smith playing a sumptuous through ball for Danny Agar Brennan to sprint clear of the Harrogate defence, sit the keeper down before bobbling a questionable reverse stick finish into an empty goal. Gaining the advantage put the wind in the Leeds sails and they pressed forward for more, looking to kill the game. Finally, Leeds were winning short corners and pressing hard for a second goal. After a near miss from Deano, Danny again took responsibility sending a perfectly placed flick into the corner, low to the ‘keepers left.
This should have allowed Leeds to relax and see the game out, but Harrogate were given a sniff of a comeback in somewhat bizarre fashion. From a short corner rebound, the Harrogate attacker hit the stick out of Mawer’s hands. The whistle went and the umpire pointed for a free hit to Leeds, and after the whistle had gone the Harrogate attacker hit the ball over the line. The second umpire stopped play to discuss the decision. It was ultimately decided that there was no foul on Mawer and the umpires decided to give a goal, despite play having been stopped at the time it was scored. You may be able to tell that the author of this report (Mawer) is still rather perturbed by the whole situation.
Anyway, it mattered not as Leeds exorcised the demons of the match that never really happened in 2020 and got off to a winning start in the new North East Premier Division. Yet another debutant ‘G’ picked up the man of the match award with an overwhelming majority. It was a superb performance both on the ball and defensively, even getting a pretty cool looking cut to the head in the process. The young man has a very bright future ahead.
In truth, man of the match could have gone to many of the team for a gutsy performance. We will be hoping for more of the same at Weetwood in the next game, with Newcastle University the visitors.