A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Match Report – M1s 4-0 Reading (Premier Division, 16th September, 2023)

By Lucas Ball

Holcombe opened up their Premier Division campaign with a dominant 4-0 win over Reading at Holcombe Park on Saturday evening.

Barry Middleton’s side, last season’s runners-up, were in control for the vast majority of the 70 minutes and barring an impressive display from Reading’s goalkeeper Chris Wyver, would have had more goals in front of a packed-out terrace.

Great Britain goalkeeper Ollie Payne was forced into an early save to deny the visitors but that was as close as Jason Lee’s side came, with Payne a spectator for the vast majority of the clash.

Captain Nick Bandurak soon gave the hosts the lead, superbly taking down an aerial ball in the circle before firing powerfully past Wyver from close range before the Reading shot-stopper denied the former Cannock man two more goals in the opening ten minutes, one from open play and one from a penalty corner.

A quiet start to the second quarter followed before Bandurak again came close with an upright reverse effort that whistled just wide of the post, before Great Britain Elite Development Programme (EDP) players Tom Russell and Sam Taylor both came close to scoring, the latter seeing an audacious lob tipped over the crossbar.

Middleton too squandered a chance just before the half-time break, with Holcombe’s quick ball movement and use of aerials proving too much for the Reading backline to contend with for much of the first half. The likes of Brad Read, Tim Guise-Brown and Taylor also stepped forward brilliantly from defence to create overloads and drive forward themselves.

Midway through the third quarter, Holcombe finally added a second goal. Bandurak saw yet another effort saved, with the rebound falling to GB teammate Phil Roper who calmly slotted home a reverse effort into an empty goal.

Just four minutes later, it was almost three as Guise-Brown drag-flicked onto the post, with Bandurak also having a penalty corner effort saved.

With 50 minutes on the clock, Guise-Brown added a third to kill any Reading hopes of an unlikely comeback, his drag-flick taking a deflection on the way through to beat Wyver.

Roper’s second came in the final period of play, a brilliant deflection from close range to beat Wyver, but that was far from the end of the chances as Middleton’s men continued to dominate.

Jake Owen forced Wyver into action once more before debutant Alex Pendle brilliantly brought down another aerial ball, drove forward and fired a rapid effort agonisingly wide of the far post.

Bandurak could have had a clear run at goal late on with better control before Roper – on a hat-trick – broke through late on. Wyver forced the GB man wide and Roper’s reverse flew over the bar.

Middleton’s side’s defence stood strong for any occasional challenges thrown their way to ensure a first clean sheet of the season, keeping their concentration despite mostly being required to transfer the ball and sometimes get involved in attacking play on Saturday.

Holcombe sit top of the table following their convincing opening day victory and head to Southgate next Saturday (7:00pm) – also winners on the opening weekend – in a double-header, with Holcombe’s women’s side also in action (4:30pm).