By Lucas Ball
Holcombe made it four wins from five Premier Division matches with their 1-0 win over Oxted on Saturday evening as Sam Taylor scored the only goal of a tightly-contested affair.
Barry Middleton’s side returned to league action after last weekend’s Euro Hockey League (EHL) campaign and are one of four teams on 12 points at the top of the Premier Division, currently sitting fourth on goal difference heading into a double-header weekend.
The first opportunity came the way of the hosts as a free-flowing passing move saw Tom Russell and Alex Pendle link up in the circle, the former’s pass across goal almost turned home by a diving Hayden Phillips at the far post.
Holcombe tried to build play by baiting the Oxted press but on one occasion played themselves into trouble when Taylor lost possession in midfield, the visitors breaking and forcing a double save from goalkeeper Ollie Payne.
Payne was again called into action before half-time as neat Oxted play found a forward in space, his tame effort kept out comfortably.
The hosts did also have a goal disallowed when a loose ball in the circle came the way of Phil Roper to turn home.
Holcombe kept pushing for a winner and almost found one when Taylor launched an aerial into the circle to find Phillips. The New Zealand international played a one-two with Middleton before almost turning provider this time, playing a ball across goal which narrowly evaded Pendle, still searching for his first Holcombe goal.
With little over five minutes to play, the home side finally broke the deadlock. Roper’s penalty corner effort was saved and bounced up into the air, with the onrushing injector Taylor coming in to volley into the top corner from close range for his second goal of the season.
Oxted struggled to create any chances for an equaliser as Holcombe controlled the ending of the match with both sides down to ten players after two late yellow cards.
Middleton’s side are in action on both Saturday and Sunday as they travel to East Grinstead for the first part of a double-header weekend (Saturday 4pm) before facing Wimbledon at Holcombe Park on Sunday afternoon (3pm).