Holcombe proved their EHL class with clinical finishing as the packed crowds were treated to a feast of hockey of the finest order.
Southgate came back home to the Premier Division with a marquee fixture against a resurgent Holcombe side packed to bursting with top talent. Southgate came into the game buoyed by their opening weekend win away at Cardiff and looking to build in front of a noisy Saturday evening crowd spilling out from the balcony to line the pitch sides three deep.
Holcombe under their coach David Ames came out of the blocks with a serious of strong offensive manoeuvres pegged back the Southgate attacking line. Yet it was the boys in red who posed the first serious challenge as a rapacious Ramshaw dug in and charged around the D from the left channel to the right shoulder letting off a reverse strongly saved by GB’s Ollie Payne in the Holcombe goal.
Yet despite the crowd being up, it was Holcombe who got on the score sheet first with GB’s Phil Roper putting Tom Russell through on goal for a simple finish.
The boys in black then turned the screws as chances came quickly in short fire succession as the crowd were treated to Nick Bandurak and Phil Roper linking up as balls crashed into Southgate keeper Anton Van Loggerenberg. Kwan Browne and Robbie Gill at full back were cheered on at full throttle from the sidelines as the team fought hard to hold off the Holcombe threat.
The second quarter saw more of the same from Holcombe who began to punish John Sterlini and his dogged Southgate side on the counter in a series of sweeping attacks. It was Holcombe captain Nick Bandurak once again who drove one attack down the the right and across the baseline to pick out number 7 Phil Roper with a precision pass for a smart finish at close range to send the visitors 2-0 up in the 18th minute.
Just two minutes later a team goal of top order saw a counter offensive link four players and four touches from the Southgate D to the Holcombe D with a clinical finish from Sam Taylor. Yet Kwan and his team kicked on in the face of mounting scoreboard pressure. Kwan himself leading from the front with an awesome tackle to deny Bandurak his second as soon Ali Douglas forced the foul from the Holcombe defenders in the D winning the first PC for the home side. It was left to Archie Foster at the top of the D to send the ball low and left but was well met by the off set skills of Payne who cleared it out denying the crowd their first home goal of the season.
They needn’t have worried as just minutes later in the 32nd minute Kwan Browne in a high forward position on the Holcombe 23 transferred the ball to Robbie Gill on the right who drove a ball top D to John Sterlini who deflected it on first time into the D for Calnan to strike a ball in turn well parried down by Payne only then in a congested space for Richmond Lum to snare an upright reverse high into the top right netting beating the Holcombe keeper. The crowd cheered, the white blew and the players headed in for half time with Southgate back in the game but still with lots of work to do at 1-3 down.
Southgate brought more control with them out of the changing rooms and onto the pitch for a third quarter that contained Holcombe effective for much of the period. The pace of the game slowing a touch and allowing the home side a series of half chances.
Yet it was Bandurak who broke the deadlock in the 42nd minutes as Roper and Taylor linked up to return the compliment paid by their Captain in the first half as they put the ball across the face of goal for a straightforward ruthless finish.
Meanwhile still the Southgate players fought on, Will Calnan beginning to really show his quality on the ball linking well with recent GB signing Rohan Bhuhi who seemed to pass like water through the Holcombe lines. But it was yet another Holcombe counter attack in the 62nd minute that broke down the Southgate pressure as Roper once again found himself in the action as he brought down an aerial ball with a sharp left channel lead only to put Bandurak on goal once again who slid in to cobble the ball home and sealing his brace and a sore finger in the process.
Unperturbed still Southgate continued with a relentless energy and in the dying seconds were rewarded with a PC which Foster this time sent high and right the ball flying past Payne to claw back a consolation goal and leaving the final score 2-5. A fine game of hockey which sends Holcombe to the top of the league with two games played.
Southgate coach Kwan Browne will be looking to get back in the points this weekend as his side venture north to Nottingham to take on Beeston, themselves fresh from a hard fought win against East Grinstead at the weekend. Browne will be looking for that clinical edge to see his side make the journey back to Southgate with 3 points on Saturday evening. His cause is helped by the return of last years top goal scorer Trinidad & Tobago international Teague Marcano.
Kwan Brown told the us that he was “Really proud about how we went about the game, Holcombe were really slick and it was obvious they are well prepared for their games in the EHL in two weeks. It was a very entertaining game and a very fast paced game. Overall we were pleased with this our second game of the season – much still to do, but lots of positives for us to take away. The best thing for me was the level of support on the sides and on the balcony and all the entertainment around the game, for me it’s great that top level hockey is getting the support and appreciation it deserves. Very exciting and a great reflection on the club itself. Thanks to everyone who came”