Sheffield Bankers on brink of league title after top-of-table thriller

James Cozens, left, and Nick Fletcher jump for joy after Bankers hit the winner in the  4-3 victory over City of York. Photo: Ian Anderson
James Cozens, left, and Nick Fletcher jump for joy after Bankers hit the winner in the 4-3 victory over City of York. Photo: Ian Anderson
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Sheffield University Bankers’ inside forward Owen Davies is aiming to push his side to league title success after scoring the vital equaliser in the dramatic 4-3 home win over league rivals City of York, who had to win to become champions.

The 23-year-old, playing in his fourth season with Bankers, scored the third goal with two minutes to go after beating four opposing players with a superb run from the half way line, and went onto set up the crucial winner for team mate James Coezens two minutes later.

The man-of-the-match and former Cardiff player was ecstatic to play such a vital role at the end of the match and stressed the importance of playing an attacking formation throughout the game.

“I still knew we could win even with so little time on the clock and being down to 10 men and when the two minute warning was signalled I made sure to stay pushed up the field,” explained the Welsh- born player.

“York were on the attack with no players back but our player Jimmy Osbourne tackled well and punted the ball up field. Luckily I collected the ball and sprinted towards the goal.

“I didn’t have time to be nervous but I knew not to try and be clever so I just slapped the ball low and hard into the net. I straight away grabbed the ball and put it on the half way line so we could get on with the game.

“And then miraculously a similar thing happened with our winner. York all pushed up again but they lost it and it broke to me. This time I was pushed more out wide so squared the ball to James right in front of goal.

“I’ve never heard or seen celebrations like those that followed. It felt like we had won the league, it was definitely the biggest game of the season and because we kept attacking we always gave ourselves hope.”

Bankers came from behind twice with other goals from Jack Coulson just after half-time and captain Matt Godden after 51 minutes to clinch their 15th victory of the North 1 Division in a feisty affair which saw a spate of yellow cards issued by the umpire in bright but bitterly cold conditions at the Goodwin Centre.

“York were the hardest team we have faced this year and it was an incredibly challenging as we played a lot of the game with only 10 players on the field. Some very poor decisions went against us which made the win even sweeter for us,” Owen said.

“We kept battling in there and never gave up hope even when it looked as if the game had slipped away from us. It’s the best we have played all season and we showed the quality it takes to be league champions.”

Matt NorthCott, 23, the head coach added: “I couldn’t have been more proud of the players because they gave everything out there on the pitch. They showed patience and control and Owen in those last moments of the game was unbelievable.”

“He showed great composure in front of the goal and had the awareness to find his team mate for the last goal. An amazing result which puts the title back in our control.”

The Sheffield side, who have already won promotion, have now narrowed the gap at the top to just one point between them and leaders York on 50 points, but crucially have a game in hand, after their league enemies previously suffered a shock 3-2 defeat to Harrogate in mid-week.

However Bankers must win their last three league games to ensure the league title and face a tough challenge against Preston at home this Saturday and Leeds away the following day in the side’s fifth consecutive double header weekend.

Matt Godden, 23 said: “We slipped up the other weekend and we thought the title had been thrown away so there is no way we are going to let this slip.”

“If we lose now it will not be because we have put in a poor performance it will be because the other side has played better than us. I am not going to let our momentum slip and we are fully focused on getting our rightful hands on that trophy.”

Bankers are also through to the semi-final of the England Hockey Trophy after a 4-1 win over Ashford last Sunday and will progress to the final of the Cup which will take place in London if they beat Gore Court men at home on 22 March.

“The club has had an amazing season and the cherry on top of the cake would be to get our hands on two pieces of silverware – but we need to show quality on the pitch and keep getting those goals in the back of the net to make sure we finish the job,” the skipper said.