A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Brad Read keen to show Wimbledon a “Proper Holcombe performance” as Phase Two halted, with Holcombe’s Women in double-header action this weekend

By Lucas Ball

Brad Read admits Holcombe’s men were left disappointed after Saturday’s 3-2 defeat against Old Georgians, leaving Barry Middleton’s side still looking for a first win since 2020 against the champions and current league leaders.

Holcombe began Phase Two of their Premier Division campaign with a trip to St. George’s College in Weybridge and have a weekend off ahead of facing Surbiton at Holcombe Park next Saturday (24th February). They will then face Wimbledon away on Thursday, 29th February, ahead of another home game against Hampstead & Westminster and a trip to Southgate.

Wimbledon are currently in EuroHockey Indoor Club Cup action, hence Saturday’s fixture being re-arranged.

Saturday’s defeat leaves Holcombe six points behind both Old Georgians and Surbiton, who meet on Saturday, meaning their most likely route back into Europe this season is now via the League Finals weekend, the same route via which Holcombe qualified last season for the Euro Hockey League (EHL).

Read said: “We pushed them a lot throughout the game and it was pretty disappointing to lose in the end, especially with the number of chances we created, it was a lot more than we’ve had in some previous games against them.

“It’s promising signs for going through this next phase, we’ve just got to keep going, score goals at the right time and make sure we keep goals out at the right times to close games out.

“We were hoping on Saturday that we were going to take that next step but absolutely, we rate ourselves against every team we come up against.

“It’s about taking some time in training with the break to hone in on some of the things we didn’t do as well on the weekend, while looking forward to those games – doing what we need to implement to give ourselves the best chance of winning those matches.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a hope, I’d say it’s a genuine goal that we’re looking towards – we need to put in the performances to earn the spot to get back to Europe.”

Phase One’s result against Wimbledon was one of just two defeats in the open 11 matches for Middleton’s men, the 3-0 home reverse their most disappointing display of the season, a sentiment echoed by Read.

The performance also moved away from Holcombe’s consistent defensive solidity this season, they had the best defensive record in Phase One and now have the third-best record (15 conceded) behind both Surbiton and Wimbledon, who have conceded 14 each.

“Absolutely, it was a pretty disappointing result for us – to only the scoreline but the way we played throughout that match.

“I think we want to have another crack at them for that reason and show them a proper Holcombe performance.

“We all take pride in our own roles, our own job – if everyone’s doing that, then the team is going to succeed at the same time.

“We push ourselves individually to be better each week within our role and helping the others around us.”

Since re-joining the club in the summer, Read – who has 49 caps for New Zealand – has also been assistant coach to Nick Bandurak for Holcombe’s women, with fellow Kiwi Hayden Phillips.

Holcombe currently sit second behind Surbiton 2s who they face on Sunday afternoon (1:30pm, Holcombe Park) after Saturday’s trip to Slough (12:30pm, Upton Court Road).

Surbiton 2s can not be promoted, meaning Holcombe are on course for an immediate return to the Premier Division after two wins in as many matches since the Christmas break.

“I think we’ve played very well for long periods of the matches but there are still some periods where we know we can be better.

“It’s a constant drive to continue to push for that full performance, the girls are absolutely capable of it and I know that they’re looking for that so it’s just continuing to grow each week.

“I think Slough will come out at us pretty hard but I also think as long we play to our potential and focus on our game, that the result will take care of itself.

“Sunday is one that I know the girls really want to win – looking back to our previous performance against them, we let ourselves down late on after dominating them for long periods.

“Saturday is the first hurdle, we need to get through that and get the points that we want, then Sunday is another game where we want points again.

“Playing at Holcombe Park’s always fun, the crowd’s always good, they’re always enjoying themselves so that’ll be another drive for us to get the points.

“It’s always been our goal throughout the whole season to get back to the Prem and we’re in the right position for that.

“We need to make sure that we keep pushing each week to get the results that we want and need.”

“It’s nice having a game-in-hand but also we just need to focus on one game at a time, focus on us and getting the points – it’s not about what the other teams are doing and what points they’re getting.

“As long as we’re getting our points and wins, that will take care of itself.”

Hannah Carney made her first Division One South appearance since November 25th against Sevenoaks on Saturday, while Bethan Hodges joined the club over the winter break having played in Holcombe’s last two Super 6s campaigns.

Read has been pleased with the impact that those players have made, adding: “They’ve fitted in really well, they’ve been training with us for long periods anyway, staking their claims and pushing the group so it’s been awesome to have those other players come in and have their go, showing us and everyone else what they’re capable of.

“I’m sure them and all the others will keep doing exactly that.”

Holcombe could move clear of promotion rivals Barnes with a six-point weekend but still have to face the London side, currently third, at Holcombe Park in March.

“Games like the Barnes one are in the back of the mind but at the same time, we want to focus on how we want to play and how we want to win games.

“I think as long as we keep building that as we go on, that’s what’s going to get us results.

“I think if you start focusing on the other team too much, things can start to be a struggle so definitely focusing on us each week.”

Bandurak and Lottie Bigham were also recent winners at the Hockey Writers’ Club Awards, with Bingham also included in the England under-21 squad alongside goalkeeper Tilly Woodhead.

Read commented: “The awards for Lottie and Nick are really cool and really well-deserved for them, and then Lottie again with Tilly being selected for the under-21s is awesome for them, they’ve been standouts and proven their weight in gold throughout the year for us.

“For them to get that extra recognition is really cool for them and the club.”

Image: Eva Gilbert