Banbridge 2 Rotweiss Wettingen 2

Banbridge opened the Eurohockey Club Champions Trophy campaign with a hard draw against Rotweiss Wettingen from Switzerland. The Bruce McCandless inspired Bann side controlled the majority of the game but were indebted to their talisman who rescued a draw with a superb strike late in the second half.
Bann’s game plan was dealt an early blow when Peter Brown pulled a hamstring in only the fourth minute of the game. The extent of the injury is not known at present, but it is likely that he will miss the rest of the tournament.
Despite this early set-back Bann started the game impressively controlling the ball and creating a number of half chances. Hugh McShane and Mark Campbell both saw deftly deflected efforts flash agonisingly wide during this opening period.
Despite an opening period of outstanding hockey Bann found themselves behind on 14 minutes. A swift counter result in the Wettingen side being awarded a penalty corner and, despite a mistrap at the top, the ball was delivered to the back post where a diving player got the decisive touch to give the Swiss side an early advantage.
The goal changed nothing as Bann continued to control the play and probe for the breakthrough. Two penalty corners in the 25th minute were superbly and bravely charged down by the Swiss defenders, and from a third Eugene Magee’s reverse deflection went just wide.
The breakthrough finally arrived in the 32nd minute courtesy of a penalty stroke awarded when Magee’s effort from a penalty corner switch hit the Swiss defender’s foot on the line. Stephen Dowds scored the stroke, although he was nervous as his effort squirmed under the Swiss goalkeeper’s body.
But Bann were unable to hold the level pegging to the break, as almost immediately the Wettingen side won a series of penalty corners. From the third of these the Swiss side retook the lead. In a routine almost identical to their opening goal, the ball was again mistrapped but somehow found its way to the back post for a deflection over the diving Gareth Lennox.
Bann continued their possession and territorial dominance in the second half with Magee now pulling the strings from a central midfield role. They won the first penalty corner in the eighth minute but Magee fumbled the switch with the goal at his mercy.
The Swiss side had very little of the ball but on one occasion they broke swiftly on the counter attack and Lennox produced a wonderful save with his left foot to keep Bann in the tie.
Bann were awarded a couple of penalty corners in the middle of the half after hefty Swiss challenges but found the opposition keeper in top form. Bruce McCandless also hit the keeper with an opportunistic reverse effort from mid-circle after a melee.
The game was feisty throughout with several of the Banbridge players on the receiving end of horrendous challenges from their Swiss counterparts. Matthew Bell was extremely lucky to escape serious injury when he was slide tackled from behind in the middle of the second half; a tackle which resulted in the Swiss player serving a 10minute suspension. Eugene Magee and Fraser Mills also limped from the pitch at different stages after robust challenges but were both OK to continue after some treatment.
The equaliser finally arrived in the 27th minute and it was the outstanding McCandless who came up trumps for Bann. He nipped in front of his man at a Swiss hit-out to rob the ball from him and played a lovely one-two with Bill Malcolmson before driving left and unleashing a rasping reverse stick effort high into the net from the edge of the circle. It was no more than Bann’s performance deserved.
In a frantic eight minute finish Bann had the ball in the opposition penalty area continually but were unable to find the necessary finishing touch to win the game. Fraser Mills had perhaps the best opportunity, but his shot from wide left blazed across goal and went agonisingly wide. A number of penalty corners also were wasted by the Bann team including one on the final whistle which was well saved by the keeper and the rebound squandered.
In the other game in Bann’s group hosts Kelburne came from behind to defeat Belarussian side HC Minsk 2-1.

Squad: Lennox, Logan, Peter Brown, Bell, McCandless, Dowds, Wright, Eugene Magee, Phillip Brown, Campbell, Mills, Beattie, Carlisle, McShane, Malcolmson, Bingham