Less than three weeks before their opening BUCS game, the Hockey Men’s 2nd team had no captain, coach or any real idea of who would make up their full squad. Fast forward to now and that very same team is celebrating winning the league with one game to spare, off the back of an astonishing 8 straight victories.
Whilst that run of wins may make it seem like the title was an easy and expected achievement, this certainly wasn’t the case. The story of the Men’s 2nds is much more like Leicester City than Manchester City. The 2nds secured promotion to the Western 1A just last year, and whilst this was not their first foray into the higher league, their previous attempts had been met with very limited success; a fourth place finish in 2005/06 being the summit of their achievement.
To make things worse, this year’s team contained the sum total of zero regular players from last year’s impressive title winning squad. The outlook was bleak.
The opening BUCS match brought UWE to face a fledgling 2nds team who were still very unsure of what to expect from their new league. A 2-2 draw was seen as a frustrating, but reasonable result; points on the board to help stave off relegation. It was over the next week that the team truly began to take shape; the cementing of the 1s squad meant that the 2nds acquired the services of talented players such as Alex Tapping, Steve Daxter and Jordan Lyner.
An away trip to dreary Swansea, themselves also newly promoted, presented the opportunity for a first win. It was not just a win they came home with, but a 5-1 thrashing; the first signs, perhaps, that the goal for this season should be more than just mid-table anonymity. Crashing out of the cup to Canterbury was disappointing, but in hindsight may have been a blessing in disguise.
Impressive wins against Gloucestershire and Exeter in the next weeks put the 2nds at the top of table, albeit temporarily with second placed Plymouth enjoying a game in hand and a superior goal difference. The visit of Plymouth was, as a result, to be a crucial point in the season. Despite a gruelling encounter on the Sitec pitch, Bath dug deep to gain a 3-2 win and cement their place at the top.
As the second round of fixtures began, Bath dispatched UWE and Swansea with relative ease, meaning they entered the Christmas break just two wins from the title. However, after a long and possibly rather unhealthy Christmas, there was still a lot of work to do. A squad littered with injury and absence made a seemingly easy trip to second-bottom Gloucestershire a tough test. But it is in such games that true champions prove themselves, and a tremendous team effort earned a 2-1 win.
And so to the last game, and a chance to win the title at the home of the old enemy Exeter. Despite a frantic and tense game, Bath secured a 3-1 victory and celebrated securing the title on Exeter’s pitch. May even have had a beer after the match. The title is a testament to the incredible effort and desire show by the team this season, as well as the tactical input of coach Rob Cuming. The 2nds now have a final league game against Plymouth, before they prepare for promotion playoffs.