A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Match report – M1s 2-1 Hampstead & Westminster (Premier Division Phase Two Top Six, 2nd March, 2024)

By Lucas Ball

Holcombe earned their first three points of Phase Two at the fourth attempt with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Hampstead & Westminster on Saturday evening at Holcombe Park courtesy of goals from Alex Pendle and Tom Russell.

It was Barry Middleton’s side fifth win over the Londoners in their last five meetings since the start of last season, with the two sides now guaranteed to meet in Phase Three after securing fourth (Holcombe) and fifth-placed (Hampstead & Westminster) finishes respectively.

With Old Georgians also securing top spot over the weekend – and therefore a Euro Hockey League spot for 2024/25 – it leaves three of the four sides in Pool A as the same sides from last season, while Beeston – also in Pool A last season – could still join them.

Finishing in fourth does mean that Holcombe will have two home games in Phase Three, though there is one more Phase Two match to come – away at Southgate this Saturday, 9th March (6pm).

Holcombe’s fast starts in both Q1 and Q2 on Saturday proved too much for their opponents and they may well have had more goals on another day, with Toby Reynolds-Cotterill making a number of strong saves throughout despite Holcs’ injury woes – worsened by Russell’s departure midway through this encounter.

It took just three minutes for birthday boy Pendle to score – Tim Guise-Brown, playing against his brother, Matt, sent a long aerial into the circle, a defender’s mis-trap allowing Pendle to steal in and smash a bouncing ball through Great Britain international Reynolds-Cotterill to give the hosts an early advantage.

That was Pendle’s ninth league goal of the season and he could have reached double figures a few minutes later when Russell brilliantly put the GB Elite Development Programme (EDP) man through on goal, though Pendle’s shot was too high on this occasion.

Within 15 seconds of the second period, Middleton’s men had doubled their lead. Hampstead almost immediately gave the ball away from their pushback, allowing Pendle to find Middleton, who played the perfect pass through to Russell, the forward’s shot squeezing through Reynolds-Cotterill’s legs for his 13th competitive outdoor goal of the season in 16 appearances.

Guise-Brown then forced a save from Reynolds-Cotterill from a tight angle before the visitors pulled one back through Joe Hillyer on the half-hour mark.

A string of penalty corners for both sides brought no more goals either side of a break in play for Russell’s injury, with Hampstead coming closest after forcing Ollie Payne into a double save.

It was Holcombe who, once again, started the third period more brightly as Tom O’Keeffe and Guise-Brown forced more saves in the opening six minutes of the second half, before Payne made a super save from a Hampstead penalty corner at the other end after a drag-flick deflected off Sam Taylor.

The visitors squandered perhaps their best chance to equalise early in the final period as a close-range effort was lifted over the bar, before two penalty corners saw no damage to the Holcombe goal in the early exchanges of the fourth quarter.

Following that, however, Holcs stood firm in defence and actually came closer to re-establishing their two-goal lead when Jake Owen forced two saves from Reynolds-Cotterill with around three minutes remaining on the clock.

Holcombe will now be looking to make it back-to-back wins as they travel to the Southgate Hockey Centre on Saturday, where they won 5-2 back in September.

Holcombe’s women, meanwhile, face two away matches this weekend after Saturday’s trip to Team Bath Buccaneers was postponed due to snow. They now face Canterbury away on Saturday (1:15pm) before travelling to Bath on Sunday (3pm).