A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Harriet Pittard: Holcombe are excited at prospect of completing a unique treble

By Lucas Ball

Harriet Pittard says Holcombe are “excited” ahead of Sunday’s England Hockey Cup semi-final with Doncaster and the chance to move closer to a unique treble having already secured promotion to both the National League Premier Division and Super 6s Premier Division so far this season. 

Holcs have not competed in the cup for a few seasons and are hoping to reach the final by beating Conference Midlands side Doncaster, who finished seventh in the tier below Nick Bandurak’s side.

Holcombe have beaten Conference West side Trojans (5-2) and Division One South outfit Wimbledon 2s (4-3) to reach the last-four, with Premier Division Beeston meeting Division One South champions Surbiton 2s in the other semi-final clash on Sunday.

The match comes 15 days since Holcombe’s last – another win over Wimbledon 2s at Holcombe Park as Bandurak’s side sealed an immediate return to the Premier Division and, in doing so, became the first team – men’s or women’s – to seal an immediate bounce back since Buckingham in 2016/17.

Holcs are also now one of just two sides who will have both their men’s and women’s first teams in both the outdoor and Super 6s respective top-flights for the 2024/25 campaign, alongside East Grinstead.

Pittard said: “I think people are excited, it’s a long way to go so everyone needs to be switched on and definitely not under-estimate them.

“Obviously we’ve been training throughout, we haven’t had a break so there’s been some good preparation.

“I think people are excited, people want to try to complete all three – indoor and outdoor promotions and the cup – to say that we’ve done it all heading into next season, I think everyone’s on the same page with that.

“It’s been quite a nice break to have not done the cup for a few years but it’s definitely the right year to have done it I think.

“It’s Doncaster this weekend, providing all goes well, we put in a shift and do what we need to do, then we’d be up against either Beeston or Surbiton 2s in the final, if we get that far.

“That would be a bit of a statement to make within the cup.

“It’s really exciting, the group have worked so hard and everyone felt like all of the effort that went in paid off, I think the girls are probably still celebrating a bit so it’s been really good fun.

“I didn’t know that [on being the first team to make an immediate Premier Division return in seven seasons], it’s very cool, a great achievement.

“It’s pretty impressive, it’s great for the club and good profile, it’s a really good thing.”

Holcs – with one of the deadliest finishers in world hockey in charge – also finished as the top-scorers in Division One South with 59 goals in 18 matches at an average of more than three goals per game, with scoring one of the greater challenges facing the squad in recent seasons. 

Within that tally, there were also a significant amount of penalty corner goals, another struggle of seasons gone by. Last season, in the Premier Division, Holcombe netted just 27 times in their 19 matches.

“It’s really good to have finished as the top-scorers and it’s something we’ve really struggled with in the last few years, probably the past four seasons so I think to have that behind us going into next year is really great.

“It’s been all different goal scorers as well which is even better, we’ve not just relied on one person. It stands us in good stead and gives us confidence going into next year.

“Again, that’s something we had struggled with for a few years, getting corner goals.

“It’s good to know that we can do it, it’s something that we need to continue working on but we have been as a group.

“Sometimes we used to get corners and it was pointless because we weren’t getting anything out of them so it’s been good this year to see a lot more converted.”

While there are still potentially two games to play this season, Pittard added that plans for next season are firmly underway as Holcombe and Bandurak look to mould a squad capable of retaining their Premier Division status.

Pittard is hopeful of some strong additions, commenting that the club are now a more attractive proposition again for prospective signings.

“That’s already started, that started before the end of the season, it kind of never stops.

“Obviously, it’s more of a shift for Nick [Bandurak] and Brad [Read] who are staying on to coach us but you have to start early or you lose your opportunities.

“Recruitment’s probably something we’ve struggled a little with so we’ve given ourselves a good opportunity now – going back up, we’re a bit more attractive again, it’s a refresh for us.

“Recruitment should be quite positive as a process this year compared to maybe some of the struggles we’ve had in the past.”

Sunday’s match starts at 1pm with updates set to be provided across Holcombe’s social media channels. 

Image: Martin Waight