Rich pickings may elude Hampstead
FORMER Great Britain international Richard Smith faces a race against time to be fit for Hampstead and Westminster’s play-off push.
Director of Hockey Smith watched from the sidelines as his team contested a hard-fought draw with play-off rivals Holcombe.
And he was relieved to have a couple of weeks to recover from his hamstring injury ahead of the clash with league winners Wimbledon on finals weekend at Lee Valley.
“I’ve got enough time to get over it,” he insisted. “We are going to have a week off now and then get back into training. It will be a bit like a mini pre-season to get everyone together and get them as sharp as possible. We have a good few weeks of training and some training games. “I think this was probably a fair result; it was a close game but I think we had more of the pressure and chances and maybe we’re disappointed not to come away on top. “But I was pleased with how we played and the processes, that’s the important thing at this stage.
“It would be huge to lift the title, there’s been really good energy around the club. It’s nice to see the excitement and people getting behind us and if we can go there and win it, it could catapult us forward.”
Smith’s side narrowly lost their last encounter 2-1 against Wimbledon but, that result aside, are unbeaten in seven games – making them one of the inform teams in the league.
Both sides were missing players in what was an end-to-end encounter, and both may feel they would have taken maximum points were it not for impressive goalkeeping displays at both ends.
Holcombe – who twice hit the post – took the lead with two goals in six minutes, second-team regular Ian Harvey opening the scoring, and then club veteran Gareth Andrew doubling the advantage.
Jonny Codling reduced the arrears for the hosts and then Samuel French equalised via a penalty corner in the final action of the first half.
Holcombe’s Sam Ward flicked in from close range moments after the restart only for Peter Makin to secure a share of the spoils six minutes from time – sending himself sprawling to apply the decisive touch past the keeper.
Holcombe manager Keith Martin admitted the match was a good opportunity to blood new talent, with the focus starting to switch to their finals weekend clash with Surbiton – a team they beat 3-1 on the opening day of the season.
David Ames and Jonty Robinson are both expected to return, as is four-time Olympian Barry Middleton, who picked up an injury during an international team meet-up.
“We brought a few guys up from the second team but the result didn’t matter too much as we could not change where we were in the league table,” said Martin. “It’s always good to get the fringe players in because they could be important for next season.
“We felt we should have edged it but it did not make to much difference. I think both teams were quite happy with a point.”
However, Martin saved special praise for Harvey and stalwart Andrew.
“It was Ian’s first National League goal in only his seventh start,” he added. “Gareth will be celebrating his 36th birthday at the end of April and hopefully we’ll be celebrating qualifying for Europe.”
Just reward: Sam Ward wheels away after scoring Holcombe’s third goal PICTURE: Andy Crayford