The final scoreline doesn’t reflect how close City of Peterborough came to giant-killing glory in the English Hockey Cup yesterday (October 30).
With 20 minutes of an enthralling, entertaining, end-to-end clash with National Premier Division Reading to go, City led 4-2 before they were harshly blown away by some ruthless finishing.
Reading play two divisions above City. They’re just below half-way in the Premier League, but have a proud tradition in knockout hockey, so this was the equivalent of Peterborough United taking on West Ham with the underdogs having the boost of home advantage.
And that’s a big deal on the sand-based artificial surface at Bretton Gate. Reading, who included 2012 GB Olympian Tom Carson in their line-up, would have found the conditions rather alien, although a first minute goal suggested otherwise.
Alarm was writ large on the faces of the sizeable home crowd after the early strike, many of whom were present last season when a top-flight Beeston side romped to an easy win against City in the semi-final of this prestigious competition.
But City responded immediately when Ross Ambler tapped home at the far post and, despite falling behind again in the 23rd minute, Sam Blunt was soon on hand to blast home another equaliser following fine work from Danny Sisson.
And then City really dared to dream. They gave Reading no time to settle on the ball and dominated territory so completely it was no surprise when young Brendan Andrews claimed a goal on his debut with a neat deflection into the roof the net.
From 3-2 at half-time it became even better after the break when Sisson netted from a short corner, but that goal prompted Reading’s best spell of the game as tiredness became a factor.
City had endured a gruelling league match the day before, while Reading were resting, and the visitors scored three times in three minutes, taking the lead for the third time with a classy first-time finish.
Most expected the floodgates to open, but City enjoyed a strong spell of pressure without finding an equaliser. Two short corners came and went and two Reading players were forced into the sin-bin, before the impressive Blunt burst through and fired a fierce reverse stick shot over the bar.
But Reading survived and broke clear to add two goals in the final moments to put a gloss on the final scoreline that flattered them greatly.
*Blunt’s first-half goal was enough to secure an East Premier A Division win over Bedford at Bretton Gate on Saturday (October 28).
It was a typically competitive clash against old rivals, but City kept their cool to make it six wins from seven games in a division that’s already looking like a three-horse race.
City are third, three points behind title favourites Old Loughtonians and behind second-placed St Albans only on goal difference.