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WIMBLEDON might have made hard work of it but coach Ben Hawes is adamant his side’s come-frombehind victory over Brooklands is a positive sign for the end-of-season run in.
League leaders Wimbledon looked to be staring at a first defeat of the campaign at Brooklands as the home side led 2-0 at halftime thanks to goals from Peter Flanagan and Sam Perrin.
But whatever Hawes said to his troops at the interval worked wonders as two Phil Roper goals pulled Wimbledon level before Simon Mantell hit the winner on 66 minutes.
And while being two goals down at half-time to a side that have won just three times this season might be cause for concern, Hawes is instead focussing on the positives with his side now seven points clear at the summit.
“It was massively important to win and we recognise how tough a game it is to come here, as always,” Hawes said.
“When we went 2-0 down, it was a case of changing things up because we as a collective weren’t delivering on what we agreed on before the start.
“The first half we started really well, but during that middle period we didn’t play what is our game. We dropped off the pace and I think we were impatient.
“What I want to see from our players is a bit more belief that our game plan works. We’ve got the quality and individuals that can do those extra bits that win you games.
“A result like this is a big step forward because in the past I feel that some players might have looked to others to step up, but against Brooklands we believed in our game and it was a mature second half performance that won it in the end.
“The most important thing was to put another great performance in, whilst we’re still top of the league and get three points on the board because we’ve got a few players going on international duty.”
The opening stages of play were dominated by Wimbledon; so much so that the away side’s half was occupied more by encircling birds than Brooklands players in the first 15 minutes.
Mantell whistled a shot across the face of goal and Brooklands were lucky to clear their lines on several occasions, including a weak back pass that could have easily have been punished.
Things got even tougher for the home side after Oliver Clarke received the afternoon’s only yellow card in the 19th minute.
But with the game approaching the half hour Brooklands began to move the ball quicker and match their league-leading opponents in midfield.
And against the run of play Brooklands were awarded the first penalty corner of the game, which led to a penalty stroke for the home side which cap- tain Flanagan masterfully slotted home on 29 minutes for the lead. With Wimbledon now rattled Brooklands soon found themselves two goals to the good after Perrin cut through the away side’s defence to score on the 33minute mark. Just before the break, Wimbledon’s Roper hit a fierce shot from the edge of the D but Christopher Scott saved well to keep the score at 2-0. Into the second half and the Brooklands goalkeeper was called into action again; saving another fierce shot from Roper and doing well to save a Wim-
bledon shot on goal from their first penalty corner on 42 minutes.
However, the Brooklands defence was breached on 50 minutes as Roper converted from a penalty corner to halve the deficit.
And just four minutes later the scores were level as Roper got his second from open play.
Brooklands had to resort to catching their opponents on the break through great interception work by James Sutcliffe.
But Wimbledon’s pressure began to take its toll and sure enough on 66 minutes the away side won it through a Mantell penalty corner flick.
And while Brooklands manager Paul Gannon admitted the defeat would take some getting over, he can at least see shoots of recovery as they bid to end the season on a high.
“It’s tough losing like that, but Wimbledon are a great team,” Gannon said. “Credit where credit’s due.
“We’re still in eighth. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and move on. We felt we were poor during the first part of the season and we did a huge amount of work over the January and midseason period.
“We’ve been training three times a week to try and get ourselves where we should be.
“Also, bringing in new players such as Ross Hall and James Sutcliffe have made a massive difference to our squads because they are both great additions.
“At the start of the season we felt like we were not at a good level, but since Christmas, fitness has been key and recently I feel we’ve got back to what we do best, which is playing simple and doing the basics right.
“Now, Surbiton next, which is another home game, which saves our lads from travelling – so that’s a positive. We’ll try to take all three points like we do in every game we play.
“We know every game now is important and we see the Surbiton game as a great opportunity to get out of eighth place and move away from the relegation play offs.”
Snap shot: Marc Edwards scores for Hampstead in their 4-3 win over Beeston PICTURE: Max Flego
Double trouble: Phil Roper scores his second for Wimbledon PICTURES: Sara Flanagan
Going 2-0 up: Sam Perrin slots home the second BMU goal