By Lucas Ball
Holcombe emphatically returned to winning ways in the Premier Division with their 12-1 dismantling of the University of Nottingham at the Nottingham Hockey Centre on Saturday evening.
Goals from Nick Bandurak (6), Tom Russell (2), Alex Pendle (2), Phil Roper and Hayden Phillips ensured that the three points went the way of Barry Middleton’s side, who are next in action at Holcombe Park against Beeston next Saturday (6pm).
The visitors were looking for a win to all but secure a place in the top-six for Phase Two of the Premier Division season, now needing only two points at most from their remaining three matches to secure said qualification against Beeston, Cardiff & Met (both home) and Hampstead & Westminster (away).
The home side, meanwhile, are still searching for their first points of the season, losing all eight matches so far in Phase One, conceding 39 goals in the process having scored just nine.
Truthfully, on another day, Holcombe could have had even more goals – particularly when you consider that the first 20 minutes went by without a goal.
It was a frenetic start to the match that saw a number of chances go begging. Phillips found Roper in space in the circle early on with only a loose touch letting the chance go amiss before a superb cutback from Pendle was somehow not turned in inside the opening ten minutes.
Sam Taylor saw a fine reverse-stick finish disallowed for a foot in the build-up, too, before a string of penalty corners were kept out by the hosts.
Pendle also came close to breaking the deadlock himself – the chance sandwiched by that string of corners – with Femi Owolade-Coombes’ ball into the circle touched by Phillips into the path of the Great Britain Elite Development Programme forward for him to force a save from goalkeeper Jamie Butler. Owolade-Coombes had stepped forward from defence impressively on his Premier Division debut to aid the attack.
Early into the second period, though, the goal finally came for Holcombe. The returning Bandurak – who missed the last three matches through injury – got the beating of Butler from a penalty corner to give Hollcombe the lead – and Middleton’s men never looked back.
Just two minutes later, Roper came close to beating Butler, the save earning Holcombe a long corner. The set piece was taken quickly and Bandurak was able to beat his marker to the ball to deflect home from close to the penalty spot.
Russell made it three goals in the space of five minutes when he finished off a devastating counter-attack, the ever-green Middleton teeing the forward up for a simple finish.
The hosts pulled a goal back just before the half-hour mark in somewhat controversial circumstances. Middleton appeared to be fouled on the edge of Nottingham’s defensive quarter, the decision instead going the other way. Nottingham quickly broke away and made use of the spare man, though there were question marks as to whether Dan Hunt touched the ball in front of Ollie Payne to deflect past the Great Britain goalkeeper.
Bandurak soon restored Holcombe’s three-goal advantage, though, completing a nine-minute hat-trick as he swivelled superbly at the top of the circle and fired past Butler into the top corner.
The former Cannock man netted his fourth before the half-time break, converting from yet another penalty corner to send Holcombe into the break four goals up.
Jake Owen fired an effort narrowly wide less than a minute into the second half before Rob Field forced another save from Butler. Roper also played another enticing ball across the circle which evaded a teammate.
The wait for a second-half goal, however, lasted less than five minutes as Bandurak had a deflection saved by Butler, before pushing the rebound powerfully into the top corner.
The university side almost pulled another back soon after as they hit the bar from a stinging reverse effort, but it was Holcombe who remained in control.
Pendle added his third in as many matches as he deflected in from close range following Bandurak’s touch, with the provider then turning scorer once more as he added his sixth before the end of the third period to complete a double hat-trick.
Former Loughborough Students man Pendle made it a brace for himself when Field hit a dangerous reverse cross in to make the score 9-1 with a quarter still to play.
Russell made it double figures with a goal around ninety seconds into the final period before Nottingham started to come back into the game.
Payne kept out two penalty corners with the hosts enjoying some of their best spells of possession – though there was still more punishment to come the way of the university outfit.
Roper broke into the circle and fired a brilliant reverse effort into the top corner for Holcombe’s 11th goal before two penalty corner opportunities were squandered for the away side.
Phillips then saw another effort saved by Butler before Field hit the post, the former then netting his first of the season with almost the last touch of the match as he deflected into the goal.
The result marks Holcombe’s biggest-ever Premier Division win and means they have now scored 19 goals in their last two away matches, and 27 away goals in four matches on the road so far this campaign.
Middleton’s side face Beeston, who have conceded 25 in their last three matches (12 to Old Georgians, nine to Surbiton and four to Oxted), on Saturday at 6pm at Holcombe Park looking for their seventh win in nine Premier Division matches. Entry is free at Holcombe Park and the match is followed by our next club social, a Beer Pong tournament!
The University of Nottingham are at home once more at 6:30pm against Wimbledon, with the London side having won their last two against Holcombe (3-0) and Southgate (5-2).