Hockey: Final-day defeat proves to be a costly one for gutsy Inverleith

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Inverleith’s Olympic star Graham Moodie today looked back on the EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy in Edinburgh and declared: “We’ve learned so much,” after the club came so close to gaining promotion to Europe’s elite.

Inverleith finished with a bronze medal after winning four of their six games at Napier University and drawing one to earn 22 points, one adrift of second-placed Racing Club de Bruxelles and four away from tournament winners Lille (France). Only the top club gained promotion and Inverleith’s final-day 5-2 defeat to Ukrainian champions HK OVC Vinnitsa proved costly.

However, they finished the tournament on a high, edging gold medallists Lille 5-4 in a tense final game after being 4-1 ahead at the break. Moodie grabbed the game-winner in the first minute of the second-half but the French champions claimed three unanswered goals, two of them from penalty corners, to set-up a nervy finish. Moodie, who played in the Athens Olympics, said: “It’s a huge disappointment that we didn’t earn promotion but we’ve played really well as a club in this event.

“The guys were really up for this and, sadly, we didn’t quite get there. This has, however, been a great experience for us.

“Now we can move forward and, hopefully, there is more of this to come in the future.”

Moodie praised Derek Salmond who top scored with nine goals for Inverleith over the six games. “Everybody has improved in the last two years. We won the league in 2011 and came second this season. We’ve played in Europe for the first time as a team and that can only help us develop this club.

“We’ve learned a lot as we’ve been playing some really structured teams in this event and we’ve had to adapt. The whole event has been really positive for the club.”

Lille shocked home fans by going ahead when the French side’s skipper Thibaut Blondel scored after two minutes but Tom Cousins levelled nine minutes later. The second goal came seven minutes later through a penalty corner strike from Stephen Dick and two more came before the end of the session, one from Moodie, forcing the ball home after a melee in front of the French goal, and a penalty stroke conversion from John Harris.

Moodie’s strike 17 seconds into the second half made it 5-1 but Viktor Lockwood pulled one back three minutes later following a penalty corner award and the French side claimed two more from Mikael Kempf and Gaspard Clin in the final six minutes.

Earlier, the Edinburgh side slipped to their first defeat, and it was costly. Inverleith were caught napping early on and paid the price when Artem Ozerski netted after two minutes for HK OVC Vinnitsa.

Fife-born Allan Dick then made three superb stops to keep the home side in the game as the Ukrainian side powered forward. Callum Duke brought Inverleith back into the game at 1-1 five minutes later against the run of play but playmaker Ozerski claimed his club’s second goal, shooting home from wide on the left.

Never-say-die Inverleith clawed their way back with a brilliant solo from Moodie. He took a quick free-hit near his own D and waltzed through the Ukrainian defence to bury it behind goalkeeper Volodymyr Kirbatov.

However, all Inverleith’s good work was undone when they committed suicide with only 20 seconds to go in the half. Instead of playing keep ball they bungled in the D handing the full-time Ukrainian team a penalty corner and Lurii Moroz duly converted.

It was all downhill from there. Chris Duncan, who had previously netted two other penalty flicks in the competition, hit the left hand post with his third. Then, 32 seconds later, skipper Adam Mackenzie attempted to clear the ball by driving it down the middle of the pitch. It was picked up by the eager Ukrainian side and Ozerski did the rest for their fourth.

Derek Salmond, who had previously been scoring at will in the tournament, missed two chances for Inverleith and that was that.

HK scored their fifth from Vitalii Bondarchuk following a penalty corner award with three minutes remaining.

Dmytro Luppa was yellow carded with two minutes left but Inverleith couldn’t break the stubborn Eastern European side down.

Inverleith’s Callum Duke, 21, said: “Sure we’re disappointed at not going up, but we can only go forward from this.”