Sunday night thriller at the Health Hydro

Event: Bristol and West Division One Teams: Swindon Dolphin -v- Cheltenham II Venue: Milton Road Date: 28th July 2013

Swindon Dolphin water polo team return to action at Milton Road with back-to-back home fixtures against Exeter and Frome on the 8th and 15th September. There has barely been a dull moment during this season’s games at Milton Road but the hard earned 10 – 10 draw with second placed Cheltenham II just before the summer shut down is going to take some beating. This hugely competitive match featured major fouls, a brutality, exclusions and a late equaliser and was a superb advert for water polo in the region.

Swindon started the game on fire putting Cheltenham under pressure in possession before counter attacks saw the home team race to a two goal first minute lead with goals from Matt James and Andy Strong.  Cheltenham pulled one back before Chris Selby and Strong again increased the lead.  Michal Trzeciak then scored following a well-played free flowing man up attack.  A late goal from Cheltenham saw Dolphin hold a 5 – 2 advantage at the end of a thrilling quarter.

Swindon continued where they left off at the start of the second period and opened up a five goal cushion as two steals led to excellent push shot goals from Ian Brewer and Selby.  Cheltenham changed tactics and started to shoot from range and despite some superb goalkeeping from Andy Hicks the visitors scored three unanswered goals.  A Trzeciak goal late in then quarter was cancelled out by Cheltenham and saw the home side’s lead cut to two at the half way point.

The match really started to come to life in the third period.  A goalless opening phase saw David Quinlivan and Andy Hicks figuring strongly in defence before a   Cheltenham player threw a wild punch and Trzeciak.  The result was a brutality for Cheltenham meaning a man down for four minutes of play before, to the shock of all those present, Trzeciak was excluded with substitution for over aggressive play despite not having provoked or reacted to the incident.  This meant Dolphin were down to seven players. 

The match restarted and Swindon set up a man up play from which Brewer slotted from wide on the left.  Cheltenham set up an excellent man down defence which Swindon struggled to break down.  In attack Cheltenham drew major fouls levelling the sides up before scoring two long range strikes to leave them trailing by one.

Cheltenham struck first in the final quarter to level the scores before a well taken chance on a counter attack saw Dolphin fall behind for the first time in the game.  Then with just three minutes left a third major saw Selby excluded leaving Dolphin with just six players for the final three minutes.

Despite intense pressure Swindon defended well with a vital Jack Plumb intervention preventing Cheltenham from pulling away. Remarkably though, with 90 seconds remaining and Dolphin clearly tiring, James let a lob go from half way which nestled in the far corner which ultimately proved the final goal of the game.  This was no less than Dolphin deserved from a game in which they more than demonstrated what a potent attacking force they can be and how resolute and committed they can be in adversity.  A performance with a lot of positives in a very exciting game.

Final Score: Swindon Dolphin 10 Cheltenham II 10

Team:  David Quinlivan (2 Majors), Chris Selby (2 Goals, 3 Majors), Andy Hicks (1 Major), Andy Strong (2 Goals, 2 Majors), Michal Trzeciak (2 Goals, 3 Majors), Ian Brewer (2 Goals), Matt James (2 Goals), Jack Plumb

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