England Hockey Men’s National Premier League
Holcombe HC 2-0 East Grinstead HC
Scorers; Holcombe HC: Sam Ward, Nick Bandurak
East Grinstead HC:
Holcombe Park, Rochester.
After returning to the top of the National Premier League with victory at Loughborough last weekend, Holcombe’s position was to be immediately threatened when they hosted an in-form East Grinstead side at Holcombe Park on Sunday.
The Sussex outfit have enjoyed a strong start to the season and went into the game in third place, just two points behind their hosts.
With the return of Ashley Jackson; Great Britain’s all-time leading goal scorer to Holcombe in the colours of East Grinstead serving as a mouth-watering sub-plot to the highly anticipated contest, a large crowd rolled into Holcombe Park on Sunday afternoon in anticipation of a fiery match up.
In a largely subdued first half, both sides looked to grasp a foothold in the contest, opting to size up their opponent by keeping chances to a premium. The hosts were quickest to settle into their rhythm and applied a period of pressure high up the pitch.
From a long Iain Lewers aerial ball, Sam Ward earned Holcombe’s first penalty corner of the game on 7 minutes and after two re-awards, converted at the third time of asking to give the hosts an early lead.
East Grinstead responded with a penalty corner barrage of their own shortly after. George Pinner in the Holcombe goal however comfortably dealt with any goal-ward shots to keep his clean sheet intact.
With Patrick Smith in the East Grinstead goal remaining largely untroubled throughout the rest of the first half, the Holcombe defensive unit kept their opponents at arm’s length as the game drifted towards the interval.
The second half started brightly and once again the contest came down to a battle of the midfields.
As the game wore on, Holcombe began to assert themselves and dominate proceedings. Staying compact and disciplined in defence, Holcombe dictated the half well and created a number of openings.
Finally, with twelve minutes remaining in the contest, a long ball through from Dan Fox found its’ way to Nick Bandurak who beat the last man before chipping the ball over the on-rushing Smith to extend the lead for the home side.
With chances to actually increase their tally for the afternoon, Holcombe carved open an increasingly stretched East Grinstead side as they pushed in search of a way back into the game but the Kent side were resolute in the protection of George Pinner.
The win maintains the Kent sides’ position at the top of the National Premier League and speaking after the game, talismanic striker Sam Ward was very happy with the performance; “I’m delighted by the way the team played, it was a fantastic all round performance. It’s impressive to see the way the team are growing week by week.”
Next week, Holcombe face a long trip north for a crucial double header. On Saturday, the Kent side face Brooklands MU in Manchester before travelling back down to Nottingham on Sunday to face National Premier League second-placed Beeston in the tie of the Investec Cup third round.Pictures supplied by www.groutphotography.co.uk