A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Holcombe taking nothing for granted heading into promotion-decider, says Robyn Hodges

By Lucas Ball

Robyn Hodges says Holcombe are taking nothing for granted heading into Saturday’s Division One South promotion-decider against Wimbledon 2s at Holcombe Park (2pm).

Holcs sit two points clear of promotion rivals Barnes after a 3-2 win against the Dukes Meadow outfit last time out, meaning a win in the final league game of the season would guarantee an immediate return to Premier Division hockey for Nick Bandurak’s side. A draw would likely be enough given Holcombe’s far superior goal difference while if Holcombe lose, they would need Barnes to not win against champions Surbiton 2s, who can not be promoted with Surbiton’s first team already in the Premier Division.

Under the stewardship of former men’s first team captain Richard Lane, Holcombe have also already won promotion from the Super 6s Division One to the Super 6s Premier Division this season, and still have a cup semi-final to play away at Doncaster in two weeks’ time.

For now, however, the focus is solely on Saturday’s match for the group.

Hodges said: “It was good to go up early in the first quarter with two goals, I think we almost felt that we could actually breathe then but Barnes then obviously came back with two good short corner routines – hats off to them, they were pretty good goals.

“We knew that we had a job to do and that if we didn’t do it, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now – thankfully Phoebe [Steele] pulled it out the bag with a drag-flick to make it 3-2 and it was a pretty special game!

“It’s good, the last time we had the massive crowd against Surbiton it really helped too so we’ve just been trying to build the crowd back up to that level and noise, it was like that on Saturday and it’s so helpful.

“It gives you that extra fire in your belly to go and win for them and your team.

“Training’s been good, I think the general message is to not be too complacent.

“It is all in our hands but who knows, Wimbledon could come and put in an amazing performance and if we don’t play our game, don’t get our processes right, we could throw it all away at the last hurdle.

“It’s a similar situation to last year where it was in our hands and we went down but this time we have a chance to turn the tables and hopefully use everything that we’ve learnt throughout this whole year and we win.

“I think, as other girls have said of late, we’ve taken every single game recently as a knockout phase, this is now our final.

“We’ve grown so much since the start of the season and it’s just about going out there on Saturday and doing it for every single one of us rather than as individuals.

“The goal was to go back up and hopefully we can meet that now. This year has really all pulled together.

“We always said indoor, outdoor then in the cup games, whatever happens, happens – we’re taking everything as a knockout, as the next phase for us and if we win, that just adds to the card!”

Holcombe won the reverse fixture 5-1 before knocking Wimbledon out of the cup at the quarter-final stage, winning 4-3 at Holcombe Park at the start of December.

The visitors are the highest-scorers outside of the top-three with 30 goals in 17 games but are still firmly in the relegation battle heading into Saturday’s fixture.

Wimbledon have conceded the second-highest number of goals across the division with 43 in 17 compared to Team Bath Buccaneers’ 44.

In comparison, Holcombe are the top-scorers in the league with 56 in 17 and have conceded 27, the joint-third-best defensive record.

Two of those goals have come from Hodges’ sister, Bethan, who joined the club for the second half of this season from Southgate following two successful indoor campaigns with the group while Steele has scored six goals in her last eight matches and 12 for the season.

Hodges added: “I think it’s always better to play a team that do have something on the line otherwise it can easily become a game of just passing around, everyone’s enjoying it but you’re not really up for a proper game whereas if everyone comes with that fire, that power, that grit, then it makes it so much more interesting.

“Our forwards have worked so hard on building the connections with each other especially coming from the back, into the midfield and then through the forwards, they want to give everyone the rewards.

“Corners have been a major focus of each training session, too.

“She’s [Phoebe Steele] always out practising, in her free time she loves to get down to ‘the turf’ as she calls it and it clearly shows from her scoring record.

“It’s been so nice to have not just a familiar face in Bethan but also someone I can actually talk to in the car!

“Obviously we do travel so it’s nice to have someone sat next to you and it’s always nice to just see her enjoying it, coming into her own as a player and as a person.

“It’s great to have her alongside, it makes you feel more comfortable.

“We’ve always just stuck together, whatever’s said on the pitch, stays on the pitch – we want to be united, we want to be that club, that team that people actually say ‘ok, I want to come to play for them’ because they get on so well.

“It’s not just on the pitch, it’s off-the-pitch, we all make the effort to stick together socially and act united as a front.”

New Zealand international Brad Read has been a new addition to the coaching staff this season, joining Great Britain and England forward Bandurak and fellow Black Sticks player Hayden Phillips.

As a defender, Hodges has been grateful for Read’s impact throughout the season, adding: “It’s amazing to turn around and be able to say ‘Brad, what can I do to get out of this situation?,’ and he’ll give you and instant coaching tip.

“Without that, you could be stuck so to have access to that kind of knowledge is amazing.

“It’s great for the midfielders to have Hayden [Phillips] and the forwards Nick [Bandurak], I think that’s unheard of.”

Entry is free at Holcombe Park tomorrow (2pm) and updates of the match will be provided across Holcombe’s social media channels. The match will also be streamed on Veo Live. Holcombe’s men are also in action against Beeston at 6pm.

Image: Aaron Westgate