By Lucas Ball
Hannah Bond is hoping Holcombe can follow up Super 6s promotion with an immediate return to the Women’s Premier Division as Nick Bandurak’s side prepare to face her former club, Sevenoaks, this weekend.
Holcombe currently sit second, ahead of Barnes on goal difference with a game-in-hand – though that match is against league leaders Surbiton 2s, who have won 10 games out of 10.
Second place would be enough for promotion with Surbiton 2s unable to be promoted to the Premier Division.
Bandurak’s side recommenced their outdoor campaign with a 2-1 win against Southgate at East Grinstead last time out, Phoebe Steele scoring a brace to make it three in two against the Londoners for her.
Ahead of this weekend’s match against Sevenoaks, who sit fourth, Bond said: “I think just to get out there and get the job done is the aim this weekend.
“We had to grind it out a bit last weekend so it would be good to get back out there this time and back to the levels we were at before Christmas. We’re still ramping up to that at the moment but other than win, that has to be the aim – to keep improving.
“Wins in those big games and the others would be lovely, that’s the aim but I think for me it’s just about enjoying it too.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing with this team and experiencing it all for the first time being new to Holcombe so that’s been great.
“Ultimately, still, I’d like a promotion at the end of it – we’ve just got to take each game as it comes.
“Indoor was a good outcome – our first weekend wasn’t our strongest, again it just took us a while to get into the swing of things but coming out of the second weekend with four wins showed that we just kept on going and took it one game at a time, managing to pull it out of the bag which was great.
“We weren’t thinking about promotion at that point so it was just about doing what we could do.”
Last weekend’s postponement means Holcombe now have a few matches to ramp up to playing the league leaders rather than it being the team’s first game back after the winter break. A new date is yet to be confirmed.
“I think either way it was going to be a big game, regardless of when we played it.
“We’d have been ready for it had we played Surbiton last weekend but it’s never going to harm anyone to have a couple of games to get back into the swing of things before facing them.
“We have to see it as just another game to be honest, once you get onto the pitch it’s not too different to playing any other team.”
Bond joined Holcombe from Sevenoaks in the summer and cites the group’s camaraderie as a big reason for helping her settle into a team which could end up having yet more success this season. The semi-final draw for the England Hockey Cup has now been confirmed, with Bandurak’s side facing an away trip to Doncaster, who currently sit in sixth place in the Conference Midlands.
“Absolutely – from the first training session I came to, everyone was really nice, lovely and it was such a nice environment to come into.
“There’s no bad will between anyone, it’s such a nice place to be – I come quite far for training coming from London but it’s always nice just to get there and have such a nice group of girls to hang out with and enjoy playing hockey.
“I’ve never played Doncaster before so I’m not sure to be honest!
“I think the last round against Wimbledon was a good performance from us to be honest, we didn’t really know what team they were going to have but I think we dealt with it well so I’m going to hope and assume that we can do the same thing in the next round.”
Bethan Hodges is the latest new signing at Holcombe Park, having played in the last two Super 6s campaigns before signing on for outdoor action too. Hodges made her debut against Southgate and will be hoping for more minutes in the coming weeks with fellow forward Jade van der Zwan returning to Australia.
“It’s sad, she’s been part of the group so it’s sad to see her go but it’s best for her to be back home.
“We’ll miss her being part of the team and, on the pitch, she played a key role connecting the forward line but I think there are others who can come through and pick that up.
“At training, everyone’s playing really well so hopefully we can fill that gap.
“That would be ideal, Bethan’s playing really well. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out when we get going again.”
Bandurak and Lottie Bingham were also victorious at the Hockey Writers’ Club Awards this week – Bandurak picking up a historic third consecutive Men’s Player of the Year Award while Bingham won the Women’s Youth Award. She has also been selected for the 2024 England Under-21 squad at the age of 18.
“It’s really exciting for Lottie and Nick, we’re all really proud. I think for Lottie, she shows up every week, puts in the hard work, scores some outrageous goals and just dribbles past 100 people it seems!
“It’s fantastic for her and the same for Nick – he’s always pretty good so it’s nice to see them recognised!”
Image: Jon Goodall