By Lucas Ball
Holcombe began the second half of their Division One South campaign with a 2-1 win over Southgate at East Grinstead Hockey Club, courtesy of two goals from Phoebe Steele.
The win moves Holcombe up to second, above Barnes on goal difference with a game in hand following Barnes’ loss to Team Bath Buccaneers on Saturday.
Steele scored twice in the first half to give Nick Bandurak’s side a two-goal advantage before Jennie Stephens halved the deficit just before half-time from a penalty corner.
Holcs started superbly, moving the ball quickly to open up space and won their first penalty corner with just a few minutes on the clock as Steele looked to drive into the circle.
The New Zealander drag-flicked superbly into the corner from the resulting set piece to give Bandurak’s side an early lead in Sussex.
For all of Holcombe’s excellent play in the first quarter, no more real clear openings were created, before Steele struck early once more in the second period.
Lottie Bingham intercepted as Andy Richardson’s side tried to play out from the back, beating defenders on the edge of the circle before releasing Steele, who had space in the circle to fire a powerful strike past Louisa Bray.
Southgate looked to have got themselves back into the game on 33 minutes when Stephens’ flat strike hit the backboard from a penalty corner of their own, but Holcombe were able to get through to half-time with their lead intact despite some pressure from the Londoners.
Southgate had another corner chance just after half-time, a well-worked routine eventually finding its way to former Holcombe player Charlotte Childs on the back post, but the ball hit her foot as she looked to finish.
Steele was involved once again for Holcombe as Bandurak’s side looked to extend their lead. She made a brilliant driving run down the left into the circle before playing the ball across the face of goal, with Tilly Tillings and then Leisa Randall not quite able to convert.
Catherine Ledesma fired a reverse-stick effort narrowly off-target, too, from another penalty corner as Holcombe continued to search for a third goal before two former Holcs both almost levelled the score for Southgate.
First, Childs forced Tilly Woodhead into action from close-range before Lorna Cruickshank saw an upright-reverse saved by Woodhead again, Emma Bandurak then coming to the rescue to clear the ball off the line and onto the foot of Childs as Holcs survived a nervy moment at the end of Q3.
Bingham’s silky skills were on show once more early in the final quarter, twisting and turning around defenders before she fired a reverse effort just wide.
Cruickshank forced another save from Woodhead with around four minutes to go from a smart snapshot but it was comfortable for the England youth international as she cleared.
The last few minutes for Holcombe, though were relatively comfortable as they held on for back-to-back Division One South wins, their last outing a 5-1 win away to Wimbledon 2s back in November.
Bandurak’s side travel to Kent rivals Sevenoaks this weekend, who currently sit fourth, five points behind Holcs who won the reverse fixture 3-0 back in October.