Beeston are still buzzing despite failing to seize on early advantage
BEESTON ended their season on a high with a two-goal triumph over East Grinstead, and Ollie Willars is determined to view the positives despite letting a commanding position in the league slip in recent weeks.
The Bees finished fifth in the Premier Division – one place higher than last term – after goals from Richard Lawrence and Joe Sharp helped them leapfrog Sunday’s opponents.
But while the campaign has ended more positively than the last, it could have been so much better for the Nottingham outfit after five wins and a draw from their opening seven fixtures.
At that point Willars and co. might have been plotting a playoff push, but while Sunday’s triumph was only their second threepointer since the Christmas break, the defender insists they are proud of their progress.
“It was a good win in the end – those sort of games can end up as a bit of a dead rubber but we were adamant we wanted to finish fifth and improve on what we achieved last year,” said Willars.
“We’re eight points better off, so that was really important for us. When you look at where we were at Christmas, we definitely would have said that we should have been finishing in the play-off places.
“But we had Gleggy (Mark Gleghorne) go out to India and we had some others in South Africa with England as well, so that caused us to lose a bit of momentum.
“You only need to look at the goalscoring tally to see how impor- tant Gleggy was for us, so not having him around was tough – we only lost to Wimbledon and Hampstead by one goal each.
“But we can be really proud of our efforts. If you look at where we were at the start of the season, it was all about stabilising after losing some key players.
“We want to recruit well in the summer, get back into the top four and be back winning the title again in the next few seasons – it’s as simple as that, we want to push on again.” East Grinstead edged what was a tightlycontested first half, with Bees stopper Simon Hujwan imperious between the sticks and denying both Ashley Jackson and Simon Faulkner from penalty corners.
But the hosts got more of a foothold after the break, and cards for EG’s Jackson, Faulkner and Andy Piper changed the momentum of the clash.
Beeston took the lead from Lawrence’s penalty corner flick past the helpless postman, and they consolidated their lead with ten minutes remaining through Sharp’s mishit shot, which caught an East Grinstead shin pad and found the backboard. This certainly had the feel of an endof-season encounter in Nottingham, but one man that stood out was man-of-the-match Rolf Steenmetser – Beeston’s dutch defender who will head back to his homeland at the end of the season.
Willars added: “There’s been a lot of work gone on behind the scenes to set up this partnership with HC Rotterdam, and it’s clearly bearing fruit. We want to move it on and bring more big European clubs on board.
“Rolf ’s been a superb player for us this season; he came from the Dutch under18s so he’s still a young lad but some of his play has been superb.
“He’s been very impressive so I’m sure he’ll have a bright future back in Holland – it’s a shame for us we can’t keep him any longer!
“He said he’s learnt a lot and it says a lot for our league that foreign players are able to come over and improve.
“We’ve had Harry (Martin) and Dixie (Adam Dixon) go the other way this year. They are loving it, learning lots, and playing really competitive hockey as well.”