England Hockey Men’s National Premier League
Holcombe HC 1-1 Reading HC
Scorers: Holcombe HC: Sam Ward
Reading HC: Montgomery Jefferson
Holcombe Park, Rochester
After last weekend’s dramatic second half comeback away at third-placed Beeston, league leaders Holcombe returned home to Holcombe Park to face Reading.
Currently occupying 7th place in the league, Sunday’s visitors picked up their first win in 4 games last weekend at home, and were looking to build momentum ahead of their indoor campaign.
Having won their last 6 league games in a row, Holcombe were looking to extend their winning run and ensure they finish the league in pole position before the Christmas break.
In their 21st game in the just over three months, Holcombe immediately settled into proceedings, winning a penalty corner in the opening minute.
The young Reading side showed no fear in attack, winning a series of penalty corners of their own in response, leading to Sam Ward having to clear off the line from a Tom Carson drag-flick.
With Tommy Alexander in the Reading goal standing tall to a series of Holcombe chances, the game became littered with errors as the hosts failed to perform in the first half for the second week in succession.
Some disjointed play through their attacking six from Holcombe led to increasingly frustrated responses as they struggled to reach the heights that had seen then take hold of the top spot in the Premier League.
With a fantastic diving stick-save from Alexander and a glorious chance for Tom Carson after an unforced turnover from Holcombe serving as the only highlights, the game limped towards the interval at 0-0.
Some choice words from Holcombe Coach Julian Halls saw his side come out with the intensity required to wrestle the momentum into their behaviour and move their whole side deep into Reading territory however 10 minutes into the period and it was the visitors that took the lead under controversial circumstances.
With the ball being pushed into a Reading player who had fallen to the floor, play was allowed to play on as the away side broke to take the lead against the run of play with Montgomery Jefferson finishing from close range.
Holcombe sprang into action and responded shortly after. A long ball forward from Dan Fox was deflected high into the Reading net by the talismanic Sam Ward for his 10th goal of the season.
With 15 minutes remaining, the game began to open up; Holcombe continued to pile men forward as Reading looked to threaten on counter attacks in what was becoming a disjointed and desperate affair.
A series of balls flashed across the face of the Reading goal and a number of chances went begging as Holcombe hammered on the visitors’ door which remained held firmly shut by the inspired Alexander in the Reading goal.
With time running out, there was a final penalty corner for Holcombe but Alexander was there again to deny Ward from the top of the circle.
The result sees Holcombe sacrifice two of their 3 point lead in the National Premier League in a forgettable afternoon at Holcombe Park.
Speaking after the game, Holcombe’s James Steadman said; “We’re disappointed not to go into the Christmas break with another three points but, after a busy few months, we’re delighted to be top of the Premier League.”
Holcombe’s attention now turns to the Indoor season as preparations begin immediately to return to the top flight of England Hockey’s Super Sixes.
Image Credit: Steve Grout