By Lucas Ball
Holcombe progressed to the quarter-finals of the England Hockey Tier One Cup with a 5-2 victory over Trojans on Sunday afternoon.
Goals from Emma Bandurak (2), Deanna Ritchie, Leisa Randall and Phoebe Steele secured Holcombe’s spot in the last-eight, Nick Bandurak’s second-placed Vitality Division One South side beating the Vitality Conference West table-toppers in Eastleigh.
It marks Holcombe’s fourth straight win in all competitions after league wins against Sevenoaks (3-0), Slough (3-1) and Harleston Magpies (6-1).
More last-16 fixtures take place on Monday and Tuesday, with Surbiton 2s straight through to the quarter-finals after receiving a bye.
Trojans struggled to cope with Holcombe’s attacking play for long spells of the match and would have conceded more were it not for an impressive goalkeeping display between the posts.
Despite that, it was Tilly Woodhead who was first forced into action within the first minute as she denied the hosts a quick-fire opener.
Holcombe then started to create some opportunities of their own, Jade van der Zwan’s pass across goal unmet by any onrushing attackers before Leisa Randall forced a good save out of the ‘keeper.
Woodhead was once more called into action soon after. First, she made a superb tackle as a Trojans attacker attempted to go around her, before making a brilliant reaction save and clearing while still down on the floor.
The lead came just before the quarter of an hour mark for the visitors after Bandurak drilled a brilliant, direct ball into van der Zwan. The Australian drove forward and released New Zealand international Ritchie, who took the ball around the goalkeeper and finished into an empty goal.
Bandurak looked for a deflection at Holcombe’s first penalty corner before the end of the first quarter, but it flew over the bar.
Trojans levelled early in the second quarter with a deflection at the far post from Charlotte Jones before Randall restored the advantage after a brilliant pass through from Catherine Ledesma.
Ritchie had a couple of chances to extend the lead but was denied from a deflection from Steele’s shot before Marian Ledesma forced another save.
Bandurak drag-flicked home on the stroke of half-time to deservedly extend Holcombe’s advantage.
The third quarter was a slightly quieter affair in terms of chances but still saw two goals go in.
Randall almost scored her second before it was stopped almost on the line and then Trojans scored their second, Amy Sheehan hitting past Woodhead from a penalty corner.
Marian Ledesma once again called the hosts’ ‘keeper into action before Steele scored a drag-flick of her own to make it 4-2.
Bandurak’s side looked the most likely to add more goals in the final period as van der Zwan came close to her first Holcombe goal.
It was another quick counter-attack that led to the fifth goal. Bandurak made a brilliant tackle inside Holcombe’s circle to deny an almost-certain goal before running forward, the ball finding her in the circle as she finished for her second of the match!
Lottie Bingham, once again impressive, was the latest Holcombe player to force the home goalkeeper into a save before Sophie Eldred too was denied from close range.
Tilly Tillings was also denied as she looked for her first Holcombe goal from another quick counter-attack, with Hannah Bond also denied before van der Zwan hit the sideboard late on.
Ritchie was too denied a second goal in the closing stages before Catherine Ledesma won another penalty corner for Holcombe, with a variation finding Bandurak to flick at goal, though her effort was saved as she aimed for a hat-trick.
Holcombe saw out the final minutes comfortably to reach the quarter-finals and are back in Vitality Division One South action at home to Team Bath Buccaneers on Saturday at Holcombe Park (2pm). Entry is free to watch the match, with Holcombe’s men also taking on Beeston at 6pm.
Trojans, meanwhile, will face Reading 2s at home as they look to keep their spot at the top of the Vitality Conference West.