A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Match report – W1s 3-2 Barnes (Division One South, 16th March, 2024)

By Lucas Ball

Holcombe returned to second in Division One South and put the fate of their promotion hopes in their own hands with a 3-2 win over fellow hopefuls Barnes at Holcombe Park on Saturday afternoon.

A fast start put Holcs two to the good inside 15 minutes courtesy of a third-minute goal from New Zealander Deanna Ritchie before England under-21 international Lottie Bingham doubled the advantage.

Barnes pulled one back with four minutes to go till half-time through Lara Tegner from a penalty corner despite Holcombe’s first-half dominance before Omar Shibli’s side found an equaliser with just seven minutes remaining from another penalty corner, this time captain Aleesa Ferguson the scorer.

It was a late penalty corner of their own that sealed the three points for Nick Bandurak’s side, however, with Phoebe Steele drag-flicking home with around a minute left on the clock in front of a busy terrace, the midfielder scoring her 12th goal of the season and almost certainly her most-important.

Ritchie’s goal was the first chance of the match, Barnes’ pressing structure comfortably played through initially by captain Harriet Pittard to find Bethan Hodges in space, with Ritchie exposing the high line as she was played through on goal in acres of space. With the goalkeeper choosing not to come out to meet the forward, Ritchie had an easy finish to give Holcs the advantage, starting brilliantly following Holcs’ demolition jobs on both Canterbury and Team Bath Buccaneers last weekend.

Between the two goals, chances were limited as both sides looked to build but Tilly Woodhead was called into action, making a good stop to deny former Holcombe player Alice Huddlestone following good work at the top of the circle to work the space for a shot.

Barnes’ high line was once again exposed soon after, however, with Tilly Tillings finding Ritchie in space, though her reverse shot was deflected wide on this occasion.

After a long spell of possession and having Barnes penned into their own 23, Bandurak’s side were able to double their lead. Multiple transfers eventually opened up some space for Hattie Jones on the right-hand-side, pushing up from full back, with Jones driving into the circle and playing a pass across goal for Bingham to convert from close range, her seventh Division One South goal of the campaign.

Barnes earned the first penalty corner of the afternoon before the first quarter finished, a mis-trap at the top of the circle eventually re-worked to earn a re-award, with another mis-trap following before it was played onto a Barnes foot.

Bingham continued to terrorise the Barnes backline in the second quarter – she made a driving run forward and played a quick one-two with Marian Ledesma as Holcs crossed into the Barnes 23 before forcing a double-save from Katie Martin-Fagg.

Holcs earned their first penalty corner following that, first winning a re-award before good number one running blocked the initial shot at the second, the rebound effort lifted over the bar.

Woodhead was soon in action again, making a good stop to deny Barnes a goal back, though the visitors did win a penalty corner from it, earning a re-award before Jones deflected the second shot wide of the post and out of play for a long corner.

The visitors soon had another corner, too, after Holcs squandered possession easily on the halfway line – and they were made to pay this time as Tegner deflected in from a good routine.

Barnes did have the ball in the goal again soon after but the umpire’s whistle had already blown for a foul in the build-up, giving Holcombe a chance to retain possession and calm the nerves slightly as half-time approached.

That possession did, too, lead to a chance as Bond dangerously drove the ball across goal, winning a penalty corner with Barnes deflecting the ball up into danger.

Steele’s drag-flick hit a Barnes foot for a re-award, with the second injection slightly wider and teeing up Bond to shoot, whose effort was cleared off the line.

Another corner followed as Holcs finished the half strongly, an initial Emma Bandurak effort blocked before Bond saw another shot deflected off-target for a long corner in the last chance of the opening 35 minutes.

The third quarter was a much quieter affair with neither side wanting to give anything away in such a crucial match, the sole chance falling the way of the visitors via a penalty corner, though this one was comfortably defended by Holcombe.

Holcs could have restored their two-goal lead early in the fourth period when Bandurak forced a save in space after a well-worked corner routine before, around nine minutes later, the visitors equalised through a Ferguson deflection at another penalty corner.

Catherine Ledesma almost put Holcombe back in front immediately as she played a ball across goal – it deflected off a Barnes stick and back towards the goal but was cleared off the line.

Agony turned to ecstasy late on, though – Holcombe earned another penalty corner and Steele found the backboard to put promotion back in the hands of Bandurak’s side with a game to play.

Holcs now know that a win against Wimbledon 2s – who currently sit eighth, just a point above the relegation zone – on the last day would guarantee promotion while a draw would likely be enough with a current two-point advantage over Barnes.

Barnes’ goal difference is 18 worse than Holcombe, a deficit which is incredibly unlikely to be overturned, especially with Barnes facing champions Surbiton 2s.

If Holcombe were to lose against Wimbledon, Bandurak’s side would be reliant on Surbiton 2s earning a least a point against Shibli’s team at Dukes Meadow.

Entry is free next weekend at Holcombe Park, with Holcombe’s men also in action at 6pm against Beeston.