Location: Odd Down, Date: 7th April 2018, Final Score: Bath 10:11 Cheltenham
Bath give the game away in the first quarter
Bath are suffering from a lack of regular games, and it showed in this game by the slow start from the home team. Captain Luke Wilmot managed to arrange the Cheltenham boys to come to Bath at the last minute, both clubs, yet again finding themselves without a fixture due to other teams crying (or dying) off. Although only 10 strong on this occasion, Cheltenham are a tight knit team and know each other’s strengths, they play a good solid settled game of Lacrosse.
Wilmot on the other hand is faced weekly with the dilemma of trying to give as many players a run as possible, and it’s not ideal that a game that in theory is at the top end of the West spectrum has to be used to blood brand new players. Such is life in West Lacrosse.
The first quarter saw Cheltenham run away with what turned out to be a crucial first quarter lead, and it was a good sized 5 goal lead. Not that Bath didn’t have chances to score, despite zero possession at face (no Bath specialist face off man), it was lack of movement off the ball, due, in the main to inexperience, and just plain not knowing where to go; that meant Bath only produced half chances, allowing the Cheltenham goalie to make some early, settling, saves. At the other end Cheltenham settled the ball well and created a couple of good openings, however one of the goals were a result of the Bath defence allowing the attacker to sail through bodies with very little resistance, causing a head check and visit to the sin bin by Bath’s no 17 (PB) and the resulting man up play giving Cheltenham another goal straight from the face.
Quarter time allowed Wilmot to get the team more organised, and whatever was said certainly did the trick, the team began to play for each other, better movement. Defence got closer and Ross Graham arrived to at least slow the face off down, at some stages to a standstill.
Bath started to edge back into the game, a nice left-hand drive and shot by Lloyd Butler followed by a tight angled shot by Mark Lane brought Bath into the game, and the second quarter finished with a nice fast break converted by George. A couple of solid saves from Will Tilson midway through the period meant that Bath posted a 3:0 quarter and momentum moved slightly in the home teams favour.
Nobody likes the third quarter, every team in the land will probably say its where they lose the games. However in this case both teams came out ready for the battle, ground ball got a bit more intense and both defences upped their game. Bath kept up the momentum, Lane scoring an individual goal. But Cheltenham hit back with another walk through the Bath defence. Bath then took the ball up with a clear to Lane, who laid off to Wilmot for an attempt at a long pole screamer from up top, it was a goal, but it hit something on the way through and trickled past the diving keeper, a goal is a goal though. Minutes later, another drive from Lane resulted in Bath tying the game at 6 all.
Bath took a deep breath, relaxed and Cheltenham duly scored with a nicely worked move to re-establish the lead, momentum now back with the visitors.
The final quarter was very even, dominated by some extremely long-winded face off’s, lots of grunting, but the ball staying on the centre spot. When the ball did get into play Cheltenham extended their lead, with a nice feed to crease, and from then on it was a case of Bath chasing the game and Cheltenham running the clock down. Simon Griffiths scored his first of three in this quarter after taking a terrible pass off Lane (he apologised as it sailed through the air to arrive at Griffiths’s feet). Butler Scored from yet another left-hand drive, and Griffiths popped in a brace; all to no avail as Cheltenham scored in between each Bath goal, the quarter ended 4:4 and the comeback by Bath wasn’t to be, Cheltenham holding on for a well-deserved, and hard-fought win by a goal.
Bath should take a lot of positives from this game, the second team players stepped up well, and more to a point, they were available. Will Tilson in goal continues to improve, and Nat Wilkins can now say with certainty that he is a Lacrosse player, game one under the belt. The big plus was the players on display starting to work more as a team rather than the usual reliance on individuals. And if it wasnt for the slow start it might have been very different, given that Bath actually only lost the first quarter.
Bath likely have Oxford in the playoff game, and it will be a difficult ask given the flags result a couple of weeks ago.
Hightlights of the game
Massive “Expeliarmus” by Luke Wilmot on Lenno, who was also caught a second time by Shaun Peacock using the same disarming charm.
And the big cuddle from Ex Bath, now Cheltenham’s Rhys Topping on Mark Lane, it must be love.
1st quarter Bath 0:5 Cheltenham
2nd quarter Bath 3:0 Cheltenham
Butler, Lane, George
3rd quarter Bath 3:2 Cheltenham
Lane, Wilmot, Lane
4th quarter Bath 4:4 Cheltenham
Griffiths, Butler, Griffiths, Griffiths
Final Score Bath 10:11 Cheltenham
Nik Roberts (Bath)