Hamp­stead on a Euro mis­sion

The Hockey Paper - - MEN'S PREMIER DIVISION - by Gra­ham Ot­way

HAMP­STEAD and West­min­ster over­came two se­ri­ous set­backs to take all three points, and steal a march over Beeston as the sea­son’s play-off race and bat­tle for Euro­pean places reaches its cli­max.

The close­ness of the score­line would sug­gest the two clubs are neck and neck to fin­ish in the top five of the Premier Di­vi­sion but be­hind the scenes the Lon­don­ers have a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage.

Over the next cou­ple of weeks, Beeston have to play with­out lead­ing play­ers like Ol­lie Wil­lars and James Al­bery who are in the Eng­land squad head­ing for South Africa and four matches against the host na­tion and Ger­many in the build up to this sum­mer’s heavy in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme.

Hamp­stead, by com­par­i­son, have lost not a sin­gle player to the Eng­land cause and at full strength should cash in on the club side rather than in­ter­na­tional star­dom.

The sit­u­a­tion was cer­tainly not lost on Hamp­stead chair­man Jonny Witt as he watched the vic­tory over Beeston from the side­lines.

“It’s very un­for­tu­nate that we do not have any play­ers in the cur­rent Eng­land squad that has been named for the games in South Africa,” he said.

“But on the other hand we may not be af­fected as much as the other clubs who are go­ing to be with­out key play­ers for a cou­ple of week­ends.

“We do have two young­sters in Will Cal­nan and Sam French who have played for Eng­land 21s and we would love them to de­velop and ob­tain full Eng­land caps.

“But in the next cou­ple of weeks they will be play­ing in our set­tled side and to­day’s win was a good pointer for our chances.”

How­ever, it was two Hamp­stead play­ers from older gen­er­a­tions that even­tu­ally played a cru­cial part in their vic­tory.

Kwan Browne, their 38-year-old Trinida­dian player/coach scored a won­der goal from open play and in the fi­nal third of the match 29-year-old for­mer GB de­fender Richard Smith, play­ing again af­ter three years out with knee trou­ble, was a rock solid pil­lar in de­fence.

Hav­ing cre­ated the bet­ter of the early chances Beeston had taken the lead af­ter 24 min­utes when Chris Proc­tor and El­liott Hi­bell broke swiftly down the left and Jonny Wilkin­son slid home a cross.

That lead, how­ever, lasted only four min­utes as from Hamp­stead’s first penalty cor­ner of the game Smith equalised with a drag flick.

Shortly af­ter half-time Beeston were in front again as Richard Lawrence scored from a penalty cor­ner but that ad­van­tage only lasted three min­utes as Browne won a tackle on the edge of the D and sent a spec­tac­u­lar shot into the top cor­ner of the net.

Five min­utes af­ter, Hamp­stead got their noses in front as Cal­nan won a tackle in the same area that Browne had done but con­verted his open­ing with a low shot.

That was also quickly fol­lowed by Hamp­stead’s fourth and fi­nal goal of the day when Ru­pert Ship­perly sent in a cross from the right which Marc Ed­wards slipped home, though Beeston were not happy the goal was al­lowed.

The visi­tors be­lieved Ed­wards had con­trolled the ball with his feet and af­ter an­grily ex­press­ing their dis­plea­sure to the um­pires, Rob­bie Glee­son and Wilkin­son were both sin­binned.

Beeston did halve the gap on the hour when Josh Pavis raced up­field to set up a chance for Hi­bell but their late dash for a point was thwarted by Hamp­stead num­ber two keeper Ge­orge Rad­cliffe.

Stand­ing in for David Ket­tle, who has been side­lined af­ter cut­ting a hand in a non-hockey re­lated do­mes­tic ac­ci­dent, Rad­cliffe made two late and great saves to deny Beeston’s Proc­tor.

After­wards, Browne was ad­mirably hum­ble about the qual­ity of the sec­ond equaliser, say­ing: “I don’t nor­mally score field goals.”

But he did not hold back ex­press­ing plea­sure with three points his team had gar­nered, adding: “It was a key match and we knew it would be re­ally tough so I am ex­tremely happy.

“And it’s good to have Richard Smith back in the side again. He reads the game so well and is so full of en­ergy – he had a su­per game.”

The mood in the Beeston camp was a mix­ture of frus­tra­tion at the re­sult and anger that the fi­nal Hamp­stead goal had not been dis­al­lowed.

And their coach Steve Wood also iden­ti­fied that as well as los­ing play­ers to South Africa, there is one big weak­ness his play­ers must sort out if they are to make the play-offs.

“That’s three games we have now lost by just one goal,” he said. “So it is not as though we have been heav­ily beaten and I thought we played re­ally well, cre­at­ing a lot of chances, but we don’t tend to man­age our game well when we go ahead. There have been quite a few times when we have scored this sea­son and then con­ceded soon after­wards.

“We have got a lot of young­sters in our side and their con­cen­tra­tion drops af­ter we have scored. They have got learn to get back on the ball quickly.”

It’s there! Hamp­stead’s Marc Ed­wards cel­e­brates his goal PIC­TURE: Max Flego

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