Simon's strike not enough for Ipswich

HOCKEY: Oxford Hawks 0 Ipswich 1: Ipswich have failed by just one goal to guarantee a third term in Division Two of the English Hockey League. Despite gaining a vital victory against fellow strugglers Oxford Hawks, Simon Miller's first-half strike eventually proved to be not enough as Ipswich had to win by two clear goals to leapfrog their hosts.

Oxford Hawks 0 Ipswich 1

IPSWICH have failed by just one goal to guarantee a third term in Division Two of the English Hockey League.

Despite gaining a vital victory against fellow strugglers Oxford Hawks, Simon Miller's first-half strike eventually proved to be not enough as Ipswich had to win by two clear goals to leapfrog their hosts.

Ipswich did everything that skipper Asif Rais had asked but the final result now condemns them to a series of matches, culminating in a round-robin tournament at Milton Keynes against the champions of other regional leagues.

In such a crucial match, it was hardly a surprise that both teams started in scrappy fashion and made mistakes.

Oxford created the early chances as they broke down the right wing and having waltzed past Nick Fry, the forward sent a teasing ball into the circle which evaded everyone including his team-mates.

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Ipswich then settled into their stride with Richard Fox and Ivan Smith creating havoc with their timely runs and silky skills. At the other end, the partnership of Fry and Rais held Oxford at bay, while Stuart Hendy made two crucial saves from a short corner and another from open play after Chris Palmer had lost possession.

Andy Cook continued to hassle the opposition and his immense effort finally paid off when a good move involving Cook, Fox, Smith and Miller saw the latter's shot edge off a defender's stick to give Ipswich a 12th minute lead.

The second half saw Ipswich show a lot more urgency while Oxford seemed to struggle to get the ball out of their half.

However, they occasionally penetrated the Ipswich defence but either Rais was there with a well timed challenge or they found Fry in good form.

Toby Lever and Andy Swindin continued to attack down the flanks and their workrate was second to none and half chances went begging with Cook, Fox and Smith all having valiant attempts to get that crucial second goal.

After good work by Lever, Ipswich gained a short corner and a well worked move found Miller, but with the keeper out of position he somehow missed the target.

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