HOCKEY

Ephraums double leads United past Essendon

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Southern United captain Jamie Coombes (right) battles it out against the Bombers.

SOUTHERN United’s Premier League men’s and women’s teams travelled to Essendon on Saturday as part of Hockey Victoria’s Women’s Round.

Essendon’s pitch is notoriously bad and considerably slower than any other in the league.

This, combined with Essendon’s fighting spirit and poor start to the year, meant it was always going to be a hard day at the office for the improving Southern teams.

The women’s game was first up and Southern was without influential midfielder Megan Hull, who was back in New Zealand for her university graduation, and talented youngster Nicole Amiet (injured).

Essendon scored in the 26th minute but Southern had a lot of the ball in and around the attacking circle in the second half, with Australian Under 16 athlete Amy Lawton instrumental in a lot of the creative pieces of play.

In the 62nd minute Australian Futures star Olivia Downes scored her first goal of the year when she made a brilliant solo run along the baseline.

The next eight minutes were evenly contested but Essendon was awarded a fortuitous penalty corner with only two minutes to go and managed to score from a variation to take the lead.

Try as they did the Southern women couldn’t score another equaliser. Stand-out players in the 2-1 loss were Olivia Carruthers, Kirsty Gardiner, Amy Lawton and Downes.

The Premier League men had a better time off it, winning 3-2. They hadn’t won at Essendon in four years and were coming off back-toback defeats.

After it was 1-all, and after a sustained period of attack in Essendon’s half, a hard ball was cracked in and Nathan Ephraums jumped in front and deflected it past the outstretched keeper in the 21st minute.

Two minutes later Ephraums was at it again, beating a couple of players on the baseline he tucked a sneaky shot past the keeper to take United to a 3-1 lead. It stayed in front the rest of the way.