Hampstead & Westminster miss out on EHB Cup final

HAMPSTEAD & Westminster must turn their attention to the play-offs this weekend after their hopes of making the EHB Cup final for the second consecutive season were dashed.

Seventh-placed H&W must defeat Cannock in their final game of the campaign in EHL Premier Division on Sunday, and hope that the two teams above them, Bowden and Loughborough Students, both slip up if they are to finish in the top five and qualify for the play-offs.

Their league hopes were dented on Saturday when Todd Williams’s side blew a 2-0 lead to crash to a 6-2 hammering against Surbiton, and history repeated itself 24 hours later when they led Beeston 2-1 in the EHB Cup semi-final – only to fall apart and lose 5-2.

Williams believes securing a play-off spot, an achievement they missed out on only by goal difference last season, would represent a successful season for his team.

“It’s a bit bizarre that we’re coming off the back of two big defeats and still having something to play for, but it’s going to be another pressure game on Sunday and the players need to show they can handle it,” said Williams.

“I still think we can sneak fifth. Last year we got close, so this year it’s about making that step up. What we’ve learned this season is that we can’t make mistakes and expect to get away with them – we’re going to be exposed.”

After Saturday’s defeat to Surbiton, Williams was faced with a selection problem on Sunday with many of his first team training with Great Britain in Slough on the morning of the match.

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The coach elected to field those players, who returned to London only shortly before the game, but the move backfired as H&W visibly tired towards the end of the contest, conceding three times in the second half after going in all-square at the break.

Will Naylor and Ian Roberts had briefly put H&W in front, but after Beeston levelled and then took a 3-2 lead, a dreadful misplaced pass from Roberts handed the Nottinghamshire side a fourth goal, and saw them take command of the match.

“We were off the pace from the first minute,” added Williams. “Once they scored so early it was always going to be tough, and at 3-2, to take such a mistake was really poor from us.

“But we had several big players, Dan Fox, Will Naylor and Sam Dixon, all training on the morning of the game – they finished at 1pm and the played the semi-final at 2.30pm. But that’s no excuse. If we want to progress then we know there will be more pressure games like this weekend’s.”