A National League Hockey Club, part of Holcombeians Sports Club

Tim Guise-Brown: first Premier Division title would be “really special” for Holcombe

By Lucas Ball

Tim Guise-Brown says that Holcombe are confident of a strong end to the season after finishing Phase Two of their Premier Division season with back-to-back wins against this weekend’s opponents Hampstead & Westminster and Southgate.

Holcs lost their first three Phase Three matches to the eventual top-three, though key players Nick Bandurak, Phil Roper, Hayden Phillips and Tom Russell have all missed different matches through injury.

Barry Middleton’s side ended up finishing fourth at the end of Phase Two, earning a spot in Pool A alongside Old Georgians, Hampstead & Westminster and Beeston, the same three teams that took part in last season’s Pool A, with Holcs and Old Georgians qualifying for Premier Division Finals.

A second-placed finish at League Finals secured Holcs’ Euro Hockey League (EHL) spot for earlier this season, though Guise-Brown says the team are aiming to go one step further this season.

He said: “That is obviously the end goal, you want to win the league, win the title.

“We’ve had the same core group working together for about three seasons now so it would be just reward for us as a group if we could achieve that and it would be really special to do it for the first time for the club.

“It was an unreal experience [playing at the Euro Hockey League in October].

“I think now that all the boys have had a taste of it, we’re quite keen on getting back and righting the wrongs, we’re very disappointed with the way it finished and we’d like another bite.

“It was a pretty decent finish to Phase Two, there’s never any easy games playing against the Top Six but that’s exactly what you want.

“It was nice to finish Phase Two with two wins so we can carry the momentum into the real crunch time in Phase Three, with probably the most important game of the three being the first one against Hampstead & Westminster so hopefully we can continue that forward momentum and bring it into Saturday’s game.

“Absolutely, winning those games without some key players adds a new level of confidence amongst the boys.

“It’s never nice not having your full strength squad but still being able to win two very impressive games without arguably our best players definitely adds a new element of, like I said, confidence to the group and now that we’ve got some of them coming back, it shows how strong the unit is and I’d like to think we can put on a pretty impressive display this weekend now we’ve got some more of our firepower back.

“We definitely have got a lot of confidence at the moment but we’ll never under-estimate their ability, they have got some serious threats across the field, some really good players up front and a really good flicker.

“We’ll definitely be confident going into the game but we won’t take anything for granted.

“We know that on our day we can beat any team in the league so if we can get the positive results within Phase Three and set ourselves for a straight shootout at Play-Offs, we definitely back our chances but we’re just focusing on this weekend first and then we’ll go from there.

“It’s long overdue, it’s time for us to beat them [Old Georgians] for the first time in a while, we know it won’t be easy and you’ve got to be switched on for the full 70 minutes to even have a shot at beating them.

“As long as we do that, we know that the game plan will be on point, we just have to go out there and execute the game plan.”

Saturday’s win against Southgate was made all the more impressive by Holcombe only travelling with 13 players, meaning tired legs could have easily taken effect late on. Holcs were able to hold onto their clean sheet, however, a fifth of the season for Ollie Payne which also means Holcombe are back to the top of the defensive rankings with just 20 goals conceded in 16 matches.

“We had to ask a lot of each other against Southgate.

“I think it clicked on Saturday for us, it’s some of the best I’ve seen a lot of the boys play before, particularly with our link-up play going forward and our ability to keep the ball under pressure, that meant we were able to save some of the legs.

“Everyone came off the field extremely tired having put in a really big shift and it was just an impressive performance all-round, especially from the second quarter to the beginning of the fourth, we were in control for the majority of the game.

“We take a lot of pride in our defending and we work on it a lot in training.

“Having someone like David Ames as your assistant coach really does help you learn a lot in terms of the tricks of the trade and then when you’ve got Ollie Payne behind you, it does just add confidence.

“Would we have as many clean sheets without him? Absolutely not, so it’s credit to how good he is but also credit to the work the boys put in, in training sessions.”

After scoring again against Southgate, Guise-Brown has two goals in his last three matches having also scored away to Wimbledon. Saturday’s goal took his tally to six for the season ahead of facing his brother, Matt, this weekend.

Guise-Brown also scored a brace against Hampstead at Paddington Recreational back in November, in Holcombe’s last Phase One fixture.

“It’s nice to be able to contribute anywhere on the field but in particular with the goals.

“Again, penalty corners are something we work hard at during training sessions so when they come off during games, it makes it that much nicer.

“It’s not easy being a flicker but it’s a lot sweeter when it does come off and it makes all the hours that you put in a lot more rewarding.

“There was one on Saturday where it’s a good save by the post-man, another really good save by the ‘keeper, it’s one of those where you just have to bide your time and it’ll come around.”

Entry is free for Saturday’s match at Holcombe Park (6pm), with Holcombe’s women also in action in a crucial promotion match at 2pm. Updates of both matches will be provided on Holcombe’s social media channels.

Image: Martin Waight