Rich pick­ings may elude Hamp­stead

The Hockey Paper - - MEN'S PREMIER DIVISION - By David Cor­bett

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

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