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Brave Hampstead & Westminster edged out by Wimbledon

PUBLISHED: 12:36 22 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:10 22 April 2017

Richard Alexander celebrates his goal for Hampstead & Westminster against Wimbledon (pic Mark Clews)

Richard Alexander celebrates his goal for Hampstead & Westminster against Wimbledon (pic Mark Clews)

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Hampstead & Westminster 1 Wimbledon 2

Hampstead & Westminster saw their hopes of glory at the Hockey League finals weekend ended by Premier Division champions Wimbledon after a slender loss at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.

A pair of short corner goals in the first half proved decisive, despite Richard Alexander’s fourth-quarter reply, as Hampstead were to reflect upon a history-making campaign and their first appearance at the sport’s showpiece event.

Hampstead made a bright start, with Michael Watt forcing a kick save from James Bailey inside the first 90 seconds, but Simon Mantell fired into the side netting at the other end for Wimbledon and saw Phil Ball’s reverse-stick effort deflected behind by David Kettle.

The deadlock was broken on eight minutes, though, when the Premier Division champions won the first penalty corner of the match and Mantell drilled a low shot into the bottom left corner of the goal.

Kwan Browne tried to respond for Hampstead with a run from deep, but Wimbledon’s defence held firm to deny entry into the D with a good stick tackle and a long pass then found Chris Gregg on the left, with his reverse-stick drive parried by the pads of Kettle.

Hampstead ended the first quarter well, however, as Matt Botha saw a reverse-stick shot from the left side of the D kicked out by Bailey, before Watt was also denied at close range by the keeper’s pads.

Wimbledon were on the front foot at the start of the second quarter as Mantell fizzed a hard cross in from the right, across the face of goal, and Ben Arnold did the same on his reverse from the left, without finding the stick of a team-mate in front of Kettle.

Hampstead were growing slightly frustrated, with Will Calnan clashing off the ball with Steven Ebbers, and Wimbledon doubled their advantage on 27 minutes from their second short corner, as Borja Llorens saw his drag flick squirm under Kettle and over the line.

There was late hope for Hampstead shortly before half time when Llorens was shown a green card and they won their first corner of the match, but Matt Guise-Brown’s drag flick was knocked behind by the stick of a diving Bailey and Stevie Dowds sent another effort from the top of the D whistling wide before the hooter.

Hampstead’s Richard Alexander was shown a green card early in the second half and it proved the first of five cards shown in the third quarter, as captain Toby Roche was banished along with Gregg following two clashes in quick succession.

Wimbledon’s Ian Sloan saw a reverse-stick shot kicked out by Kettle, before a stick tackle on Watt saw Hampstead awarded a corner, which was saved by Bailey, before Wimbledon countered and flashed a left-wing effort across the face of goal.

Kettle dashed from his line to sweep the ball clear soon after, before McCabe was shown a yellow card for a push on Johnny Kinder as he looked to break through midfield and Wimbledon’s Ben Arnold was also handed a temporary suspension as tensions continued to rise.

The final quarter was only two minutes old, though, when Rupert Shipperley produced a strong run into the D and the ball broke for Alexander to send a reverse-stick shot into the roof of the net to halve the deficit and give Hampstead hope.

Llorens saw a short corner drag flick saved by Kettle, before falling to the turf seemingly injured, but the umpires took no further action and Browne almost put Peter Makin into the D, only for a whistle to sound for an earlier Wimbledon indiscretion.

Kinder deflected a pass just past the post, before Hampstead removed Kettle for the last three minutes and sent Stuart Loughrey on as a kicking-back substitute.

But Wimbledon controlled the ball well to run down the clock and book their place in Sunday’s final against Holcombe or Surbiton, ;eaving Hampstead to reflect on their first-ever trip to finals weekend at the end of a fine campaign.

Hampstead & Westminster: David Kettle, George Ratcliffe, Richard Smith, Richard Alexander, Marc Edwards, Toby Roche, Will Calnan, Matt Botha, NIck Giles, Jonny Codling, Sam French, Matt Guise-Brown, Michael Watt, Peter Makin, Stevie Dowds, Kwan Browne, Alex Jakeman, Rupert Shipperley, Stuart Loughrey, Geoff Mccabe, Chris Cargo, James Chaffey, Joe Crame.

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