Nijmegen started this season in the Promotion Class with a clear mission. The Gelderland men want to become champions, or at least reach the play-offs. But for now, that goal is far out of reach. On Sunday afternoon, coach Bas Bogaard’s team wasted points for the fourth week in a row. Sixth place is where Nijmegen has to make do for the time being.
The Nijmegen players left the field last Sunday with faces dripping with disappointment. On and against Tilburg, the number two of the previous season had the best of the game and the most chances. Still, they had to settle for a draw (1-1). A ball on the post, a bet that was cleared off the line, a penalty corner that lacked sharpness… Things weren’t going well for Nijmegen either.
Nevertheless, it is not an incident that Nijmegen loses points. After a 3-3 draw against SCHC, Voordaan (3-2) and Victoria (0-3) were too strong.
“It was totally flattering that we lost 0-3 to Victoria,” Nijmegen defender Lars Leenen (30) reflected after the draw against Tilburg. ‘Just like today, we played well, had the upper hand and created chances. Insanely many opportunities, in fact. Eight penalty corners, for example. We just didn’t score.’
Stay close to the top three
Despite missing a three-pointer again last Sunday, Leenen did not look panicky. ‘Of course, I would have preferred to win today. But our game is fine. We also have guys up front who score easily. I think those goals will still be scored. As long as we join the top three, I’m not worried at all.’
Nijmegen coach Bas Bogaard also made a calm impression. ‘This doesn’t make me restless. That doesn’t make any sense either. It’s better to look at what could be improved. If you look at it this way, we have made good progress compared to the past few weeks. We were in control for large parts of the match and were more patient than earlier this season.’
Nijmegen has heavy artillery, but the goals are not coming
It is surprising that scoring ability is an issue at Nijmegen. Striker and penalty cornerman David Blom was top scorer in the Promotion Class last season with 24 goals. A year earlier, Tijn Stuve finished third in the overall rankings with 21 goals. Moreover, by recruiting forward Dylan Wotherspoon, Nijmegen has a 95-time international who has shown in the past that he has scoring ability. For the time being, the Australian and ex-Den Bosch player’s tally at his new club is two out of six.
Kars Schreuders and Jim van de Venne also played in the big league (at Den Bosch and Oranje-Rood respectively) and have a nose for goal. The only goalkeeper currently missing from the selection is Kjell Bakker. He will join again after the winter break, after being out of action for a long time with a cruciate ligament injury.
Thirteen a lucky number?
For Leenen, Lange for teammates, it is hoped that the Nijmegen goal machine will soon get going. The veteran is in his thirteenth (!) season in the main force of Nijmegen. He has never played in the big league.
‘I gave up the captaincy to Luc de Rooij two years ago. It was time to transfer that role, also because it became a lot in combination with my work (manager at a furniture company). But the big league is definitely still on my wish list. And with the way we’re playing, I’m still confident that we’ll make it this season.”