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This marathon season is now drawing to a close and, with the finish line in sight, Sidmouth are still angling for their first win in South West Premier 3, writes Andy Mapson.

Regulars Graham Pidgeon and Chris Lewis were unavailable, so a line was cast and Mark Mingo and Bobby Brown were reeled into the first team, while birthday boy Byron Fitzgerald returned from injury.

Sidmouth were expecting a tough game as Bristol Uni are well placed in the top three of the division and in with a shout of topping it at the end of the season and had scored freely in the second half in their first meeting.

Bristol themselves were expecting to win comfortably again and started strongly with lots of possession in the Sidmouth half. Sidmouth withstood the pressure well, Scott Rowson led by his usual solid and skilful example in defence which gave his fellow defenders confidence to play the ball out with some nice passing moves.

Keeper Jonty Hill looked like he was on form and was making some good saves but a rebound from one of these made contact with his hapless captain Ian Brown and Bristol scored from the penalty corner.

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He was beaten again from an early shot from the top of the D, following a well-worked free hit by Bristol which took them two up.

But Sidmouth kept chasing, marking and holding their positional shape. They had some attacking action of their own from Nick Wade and George Powell who came up with some great skill to win a penalty corner. Unfortunately Brown was unable to score so the Sidmouth were two goals down at half time.

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It was a similar pattern in the second half, Sidmouth withstanding lots of pressure from Bristol’s passing game.

There was plenty of running in midfield from Byron Fitzgerald and Bobby Brown, while Charlie Plowden maintained position in the holding midfield role, and Mark Mingo offered strength on the ball on the right hand side.

There weren’t many opportunities for creative play for Sidmouth, but they did deny Bristol chances, whose only goal of the second half was from a penalty flick.

Sidmouth were unlucky to concede a goal and it was one of the few times Bristol really broke through the Sidmouth defence, although, later, a visiting forward was sure he had scored, but was denied on the line by great reaction from Scott Rowson.

Despite the loss, there was praise at the end of the game from captain Brown for the hard work and attitude of the whole side who didn’t hit the wall but kept running and trying for each other right through the game.

This week Sidmouth travel to mid-tablers Cheltenham and will hope that a similar performance may bring them a win.

Sidmouth HC Men’s 1st XI are sponsored by Adrenalin Games, based at Crealy.

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