England Hockey Men’s National Premier League
Beeston HC 2-3 Holcombe HC
Scorers; Beeston HC: Elliot Hibell, Chris Proctor.
Holcombe HC: Barry Middleton (x2), Sam Ward,
Nottingham Hockey Centre, Nottingham
Sunday afternoon saw Holcombe men head north up the M1 to repeat the cup tie of 7 days ago at Nottingham Hockey Centre.
With Holcombe sitting top of the Premier League going into the final two games before the Christmas break for the indoor season, the Kent side knew that nothing less than a win against a talented and dangerous young Beeston side would be acceptable.
Beeston have enjoyed a strong start to the season and went into the game in third place, looking to close the gap on the visitors and last season’s Champions; Wimbledon.
The game began as entirely one-way traffic.
Beeston settled into their rhythm immediately and harassed the league leaders, applying pressure all over the pitch. In defence, they were led by the ever-present Ollie Willars and Richard Lawrence who commanded proceedings to their young outfit.
The early pressure was duly converted 5 minutes into the contest; England U21 International Elliott Hibell latched onto a dangerous cross from the right wing to deflect home from close range.
Where a response would normally be expected and received, Holcombe struggled to string any form of structured attack together and found themselves turning the ball over cheaply across midfield and the forward line.
Beeston looked to gain confidence from their pressure and forced a number of penalty corners.
The prolific Mark Gleghorne had a drag flick cleared from the line before repeating the feat moments later, only for Chris Proctor to pounce and double the advantage for the home side.
With the crowd growing as the half went on, the noise and atmosphere grew has Holcombe strained to wrestle back some momentum going into the break.
On the stroke of half time, Holcombe had a barrage of penalty corners; all four of which were charged down by Gleghorne to rapturous applause from the crowd, preserving their two-goal lead and leaving the league leaders with a mountain to climb in the second half.
After some choice words from Coach Julian Halls, the Kent outfit came out with a renewed sense of urgency and intensity, immediately wrestling back the momentum.
The hosts, content to sit deep, invited a barrage of pressure as Holcombe looked to carve out a number of chances.
A sliding deflection from Nick Bandurak was brilliantly saved Simon Hujwan in the Beeston goal before scrambling across to turn the Sam Ward rebound round the post.
From the resulting long corner, a fierce ball into the circle from Jonty Robinson deflected through to Great Britain Captain Barry Middleton who lifted the ball over Hujwan to give Holcombe a lifeline in the contest.
Just two minutes later and Holcombe had erased the deficit. Talismanic striker Sam Ward converted a diving deflection from close range against his old side to notch his 100th National Premier League goal of his career.
With Beeston on the ropes, Holcombe continued to apply pressure high up the pitch and were rewarded just 9 minutes from time. With the two goal scorers combining again, Ward spun from close range around Hujwan in the Beeston goal for Middleton to convert to complete the turnaround.
With time left on the clock, there was still time for controversy as Beeston had a goal disallowed. With the ball fired in from Josh Pavis on his reverse stick through a crowd of players, it struck the backboard. Immediate Beeston celebrations were met with immediate Holcombe protests and, after deliberation, the umpires overruled the original decision to disallow the goal on the grounds of the initial ball into the circle striking Pavis’ back-stick.
Holcombe survived and made a couple of late counter-attacks to close the game but secured their 8th win of the season in a five-goal thriller in Nottingham.
Speaking after the game, Holcombe’s Martin Robbins was pleased with his sides’ team spirit throughout their second half fight-back; “It was a disappointing first half performance with too many errors and not up to the standards we expect. But with the spirit and work rate we have in this team we were never going to give up and performed much better in the second half. We’re glad to come away with the three points!”
The result sees Holcombe retain top-spot as they host Reading next weekend in their final game before they commence their indoor campaign.
Image Credit: David Kissman