Hampstead & Westminster captain feeling ‘relief and frustration’ at end of the campaign

Hampstead & Westminster captain Toby Roche. Pic: Mark Clews

Hampstead & Westminster captain Toby Roche. Pic: Mark Clews - Credit: Archant

Captain Toby Roche is feeling “relief and a bit of frustration” after Hampstead & Westminster avoided relegation to finish seventh in the men’s Premier Division.

H&W went into the final weekend sitting three points above the bottom two, but a goalless draw away against relegation rivals Southgate on Saturday was followed by a 1-1 draw away at high-flying Wimbledon on Sunday.

That took Hampstead above Manchester-based Brooklands into seventh place in the final standings, but they finished just two points above the drop zone and Roche feels there are lessons to be learned.

“The feeling is probably relief and a bit of frustration really,” he told Ham&High Sport. “We have been very competitive in every game and we’ve taken points off the top four sides but we just haven’t got the results against the teams around us that we needed to.

“When we put in our best performances we drew away at East Grinstead, who won the league, and we drew at home with Surbiton, who came second – but that’s the frustration, that we didn’t put in performances against teams around us.

“If you look at the table, Brooklands came eighth and we lost both fixtures against them. Reading came sixth and Cannock came fifth, and we lost all four fixtures against both. If we’d won three of those six games it really would have made a massive difference.

“As a club, how we reflect on this year will be important. I think a couple of the guys are going to retire – people who have done really good stints for the club – so there’ll be some more new faces coming in, and it’s all about getting a good pre-season under our belts and learning the lessons from this season.

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“It’s all well and good playing well against the top teams, but we need to get points from the sides around us as well.”

Hampstead started the season with a new coach and 10 new signings, and Roche feels there is plenty of reason for optimism next campaign.

“We’ve probably had six or seven new guys in the starting line-up, so that’s a lot of new faces to settle in,” he said. “We hit the ground running [Hampstead won their first two games] but then we had a bit of a bad patch in late October and November.”

Roche added: “We’ve been more consistent this season. In previous years we’ve always been on the wrong end of a couple of hidings, whereas this year we haven’t.

“We’ve got a much stronger playing group and a deeper squad than we’ve had before, and I think it will take time for some of those changes to absolutely settle in.

“In particular Michael [Johnson] the coach has been really good for us, but I think it’s probably taken a bit of time to get round to his ideas and thinking.

“Two of the guys are in their first year at university this year. James Simpson and Jacob Bullock are new to London so they’ll be a bit more established next season and hopefully as a group we’ll be one year further along, and the tough times will bond us and help us to be better next time.”