By Lucas Ball
Holcombe are looking to kick off Phase Two of their Premier Division campaign with a win away to league leaders Old Georgians on Saturday evening (6pm).
Barry Middleton’s side sit third in the table after Phase One, three points behind Old Georgians and Surbiton – the former ran out 2-1 winners at Holcombe Park back in September in a re-arranged fixture, with both sides England’s 2023/24 Euro Hockey League (EHL) representatives.
The hosts will be without top-scorer Sam Ward who has recently undergone surgery after helping Great Britain qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games alongside a number of Old Georgians teammates and four Holcombe men – Ollie Payne, David Ames, Phil Roper and Hockey Writers’ Club Player of the Year Nick Bandurak.
Middleton’s men ran out 7-0 winners at East Grinstead last weekend in their final friendly before the outdoor season recommences, with Roper scoring a hat-trick alongside strikes from Alex Pendle, Tom Russell, Hayden Phillips and Rob Field, who recently won International Player of the Year at the Scottish Hockey Awards.
OGs won 10 of their 11 Phase One matches, only losing to Surbiton, and won the Super 6s Premier Division at the end of January, beating last season’s champions Wimbledon 6-4 at the Derby Arena.
They are the top-scorers in the league, with 66 notches in 11 matches compared to 61 for Surbiton and 54 for Holcombe – the next-closest team is newly-promoted Southgate with 40. Holcombe, though, have the best defensive record in the Premier Division, conceding just 12 goals compared to 15 for Old Georgians, the fourth-best record with Surbiton and Wimbledon both having shipped 14 goals.
Player-coach Ashley Jackson is one of a number of former Holcs in the Old Georgians squad – with Ward and George Pinner regulars for the champions and Chris Bowen also on the coaching staff.
Old Georgians have won the last five meetings between the two sides stretching back to October 2022, with the Surrey side finishing top of the regular season table and then beating Holcombe in the League Final last season.
Other Top Six fixtures (Saturday, 10th February, 2024):
5:45pm – Hampstead & Westminster vs. Wimbledon
6:00pm – Surbiton vs. Southgate
Image: Graeme Wilcockson