Great escape is on for Romsey Hockey Club

Hampshire Chronicle: LEWIS BIRCH LEWIS BIRCH

The Great Escape is on for Romsey.

A splendid, yet probably unexpected, 4-0 win over second placed Bank of England has boosted the Abbey club’s prospects of avoiding an immediate return to Hampshire League hockey in the autumn.

Even though bottom club Haslemere also won, Romsey now share second from bottom place with Salisbury, whom they play on Saturday week.

Early on the Bank settled into a defensive half court press which allowed Romsey to dominate both territory and possession. After ten minutes Romsey’s superiority was rewarded from a penalty corner as the goalkeeper denied Jack Forrest-Charde’s dragflick but could do nothing about Ben Mullan’s sweep shot on the rebound.

Romsey’s second goal came when Forrest-Charde showed good awareness in seizing upon the award of a free hit to take a self pass before the defence had got in position. His shot on the run whilst crossing the top of the area was somewhat scuffed but it worked out perfectly as an assist thanks to the run of Lewis Birch, who beat both a defender and the keep to the ball and lifted a deflection into the net.

Ben Butcher almost set up a brilliant play from left back when he fired a defence splitting pass that was unfortunately just beyond the reach of Mullan’s forward run. But the lead was further extended when Neil Strong received the ball with his back to goal outside the 23 yard line and played an intelligent ball around the corner to meet the run of Birch down the right. The winger drove into the area and squared the ball for Mullan to convert his second of the day. A stunned Bank side regrouped at the break and put Romsey under huge pressure at the beginning of the second half, but Lozz Scott in goal demonstrated his value to the team with a series of fine saves. The game became increasingly end-to-end and Romsey made full use of their rolling substitutions to maintain a high workrate, snuffing out Bank attacks and producing several fine counter-moves that ripped through the tiring opposition midfield. Eventually the visitors made the points safe as Forrest-Charde drove into the area and unselfishly tried to pass to Birch who, but a touch from a backtracking defender diverted the ball past the wrongfooted goalkeeper and into the goal. Romsey held out under a barrage of penalty corners after Joe Welch was yellow carded to earn a second successive clean sheet.

With five games remaining, the relegation battle remains tight as the bottom seven sides are separated by just seven points. Romsey host Camberley & Farnborough next week and will seek to atone for the disappointing display given in November’s reverse fixture, in which they were soundly defeated.

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