Hampstead & Westminster Hockey Club ready to conquer Europe after securing play-off place

Toby Roche, captain of Hampstead & Westminster's men's first team. Picture: MARK CLEWS

Toby Roche, captain of Hampstead & Westminster's men's first team. Picture: MARK CLEWS - Credit: Archant

Hampstead & Westminster Hockey Club’s men have secured their place in the end of season championships play-offs – and with it a shot at European competition.

Hampstead & Westminster's Hayley Turner. Picture: MARK CLEWS

Hampstead & Westminster's Hayley Turner. Picture: MARK CLEWS - Credit: Archant

The 5-4 victory over Reading coupled with Beeston’s draw with Brooklands confirmed their place in the top four with two games still to go.

And with newly-crowned champions Wimbledon, who host Hampstead on Saturday, already confirmed as one of the two English qualifiers for the , the second spot will go to the winners of the play-offs.

Should that be Wimbledon, then the place would go the runners-up meaning Hampstead may just need one win before joining the European elite.

Captain Toby Roche said: “We have flirted with the play-offs before but that was the relegation variety so it’s nice to be at the top end for a change.

“It’s massive for the club. We’re really pleased.

“We just want to win the championship. The focus is on winning the whole thing and to do that we have to win two games.”

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The play-offs take place at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre over the weekend of April 22 and 23.

But before that Hampstead still have two league games to play, both against other teams in the top four.

They visit Wimbledon on Saturday before hosting Holcombe on Sunday, March 26.

That will give them a clue as to where they stand going into the finals weekend but Roche believes the club are in a good place to go even further.

He said: “We’ve always been a unique club. Unlike the likes of Wimbledon who can recruit from a wider area, we are a team of players who live and work in central London.

“We don’t have too many of the GB centralised players or many of the star names of English hockey but we have still got some well-known international players.

“The selection of Kwan [Browne] as coach has been massive. His will to win and improve has helped us in training and playing. It has been a big jump for us [from where we were in past seasons] but we now feel we could go on and win the title.”

Success at the club is not just limited to the men though with the ladies getting a 3-2 win over Cambridge City.

Fleur Horner had put them ahead in the seventh minute but Cambridge came back and Ella Dowling and Thereze De Souza gave them the lead midway through the second half.

But the ladies dug deep and two goals inside the final three minutes secured the points for Hampstead.

Hayley Turner scored following a rebound from a penalty corner before Jess Orrett deflected in a Horner cross a minute later.

The win keeps the club third in the Women’s Conference East table with their remaining two games against the two sides directly above them; Wimbledon and Sevenoaks.