By Lucas Ball
Holcombe enjoyed a much more successful second weekend of Super 6s action as both the men’s and women’s side completed their Premier Division and Division One campaigns respectively.
With just a combined four points from seven matches on weekend one, Holcombe won five of their eight weekend two matches, drawing one and losing two by the odd goal.
Richard Lane guided his side to four straight wins at Polo Farm, Canterbury as Holcombe secured a fourth-place finish in the Women’s Division One, just a point behind the top-two promotion spots.
Holcs started the weekend with a 4-2 win over Kent rivals Sevenoaks, who took a first-quarter lead through Carys Isherwood.
Lottie Bingham got Holcombe back level before half-time and put them in front midway through the third period before Lane’s side were pegged back by a goal from Sevenoaks captain Maddie Thompson to head into the final quarter at 2-2 but another Bingham goal to complete her hat-trick on her first competitive indoor appearance for Holcombe as well as one for Catherine Ledesma gave Holcombe the three points.
It was another win by the same scoreline in Holcs’ second Saturday match against Wimbledon, with the match playing out in a similar fashion.
Hannah Bond gave Holcombe the lead early on before Lily Gandhi levelled for the Londoners with Bingham once again on target to give Holcs a half-time lead.
Becky Manton equalised in Q3 to make it 2-2 before two more fourth-quarter goals from Holcombe secured another three points – this time coming from Madi Ratcliffe and Bingham once more.
Holcombe’s men kicked off their second weekend of Premier Division with a 1-1 draw against Sam Taylor’s former club Ashmoor, a crucial match in the relegation scrap.
Cullen Turner gave Ashmoor the lead before half-time before Tom Russell equalised in the third quarter for Holcombe, Barry Middleton’s side then failing to convert a flurry of late chances.
Middleton’s men then faced table-toppers Old Georgians and twice took the lead through Alex Pendle but were pegged back by two Carson brothers – first James and then Tom.
Colin Huet’s side then went two goals ahead courtesy of strikes from former Great Britain international Chris Griffiths and Tom Carson in Q4, with Holcombe unable to find an equaliser after Taylor gave them hope with just over a minute to play.
Lane’s side scored four goals for the third consecutive match as they kicked off Sunday with an impressive 4-3 win over then-table-toppers Sutton Coldfield.
Robyn Hodges gave Holcs a fifth-minute lead but they were quickly pegged back by Emma McCabe before Beth Peers put Sutton Coldfield ahead in the second quarter.
Hodges added her second at the end of the third period to leave the scores level before a late flurry of goals – Emma Bandurak and Bethan Hodges added two goals for Holcombe in less than 60 seconds which initially appeared to have secured the three points before Peers’ second with less than a minute remaining made it a nervy finish in Canterbury.
Holcombe followed that win up with an emphatic 7-1 drubbing of Canterbury – which also relegated the hosts to Division Two for next season and meant that Holcombe have beaten their fellow Kent side by the same scoreline in both indoor and outdoor action this season.
The first half, in particular, was tightly-contested – Bond gave Lane’s team the lead early on before Canterbury levelled through Iona Lester.
Bingham restored Holcombe’s advantage inside the first minute of the third quarter before Canterbury squandered a brilliant opportunity to equalise when Tilly Woodhead saved a penalty stroke which, had it gone in, would have made the scores level once more with around 15 minutes to play.
Instead, Holcombe went into the final break a goal ahead and then added five goals in Q4 – firstly Robyn Hodges’ goal looked to have put the game beyond Canterbury before Bingham made it a brace three minutes later.
Hodges added two more to complete a 10-minute hat-trick with Ledesma netting her second of the weekend on the buzzer for Holcombe’s seventh, the final two goals both coming within the last minute.
Holcombe finished with the best defensive record in Division One, conceding just 15 goals in their seven matches.
For Holcombe’s men, Sunday’s first match was crucial. Ashmoor had finished their Premier Division campaign before Holcombe’s first match against Surbiton, so Middleton’s men went into that clash knowing a win would secure Premier Division survival for 2025.
At the end of the first two periods, it did look as though Holcombe’s survival hopes may be in some jeopardy. Two goals in two minutes from Luke Taylor and Rob Farrington gave Surbiton a 2-0 lead at the end of Q1 before Middleton’s side got themselves level with a minute to go in the second period through goals from Seb Ansley and Middleton.
Stuart Rushmere re-established the lead for Mark Pearn’s side before half-time before Holcombe begun a spirited comeback.
Russell and Jake Owen both struck for Holcombe to give them the lead heading into the final period before a 40th-minute goal from Taylor looked to have secured survival but it was once more a nervy finish as Taylor also struck in the final minute for the London side.
Holcombe headed into their final match with survival secured and no hopes of qualifying for Finals Day, while their opponents East Grinstead had just seen their Finals Day hopes all-but ended by Hampstead & Westminster scoring a last-minute equaliser against Sevenoaks, leaving the Sussex side needing to win by 19 goals to overtake the Londoners.
Isaac Farrant gave Wesley Jackson’s team a first-quarter lead, one which they never relinquished in the match. Ross Stott doubled the advantage early in Q2 before Taylor – whose goal put him joint-ninth in the scoring standings – pulled one back for Middleton’s side.
Farrant restored East Grinstead’s two-goal lead after 27 minutes with Russell putting Holcombe back within one at the end of the third quarter.
There were no further goals in the fourth quarter, however, consigning Holcombe to a fifth defeat in eight matches as EG secured a fifth-place finish.
Old Georgians, Sevenoaks, Wimbledon and Hampstead & Westminster all secured spots at Finals Day which will be held later this month at the Derby Arena, while Ashmoor and Surbiton have been relegated to Division One for 2025.