Hampstead & Westminster’s women’s captain reflects on successful season after top-four finish

The Hampstead & Westminster's women's team. Pic: Mark Clews

The Hampstead & Westminster's women's team. Pic: Mark Clews - Credit: Archant

Captain Annebeth Wijtenburg is already looking forward to next season after Hampstead & Westminster’s women finished their first campaign in the National League in fourth place.

Captain Annebeth Wijtenburg (left). Pic: Mark Clews

Captain Annebeth Wijtenburg (left). Pic: Mark Clews - Credit: Archant

Hampstead are at the highest level in their 30-year history after last year’s promotion to the Conference East – and they have done enough to suggest they can continue to climb the pyramid and reach the top flight.

Sunday’s result was slightly disappointing – a 3-3 draw at home against St Albans which stopped Wijtenburg and her team-mates from grabbing third place in the final standings.

But, while they ended up eight points behind leaders Slough, they were only two points behind the runners-up, Wimbledon, and the skipper believes there is plenty more to come from her side.

“I think it’s been a great season,” Wijtenburg told Ham&High Sport. “We set our goal to be in the top three or four and I think we’ve grown so much as a team and our players have become so much better, so I’m very excited for next season.

“There’s always room for improvement and I think, talking to the girls and everybody, there are little things that we can definitely take forward – becoming fitter, more clinical and staying patient while we’re trying to score.

“It’s been our first season in the National League and we’ve had 10 new players in so at times it was definitely interesting to manage selection. I think we’ve done really well and I definitely don’t think we’ve peaked. We can still grow so much more as a team, which is the exciting part.

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“Obviously it would have been nice to be in the top three because I think that’s nicer to say, but in general the feeling is everybody’s pretty proud of the season and what we’ve achieved. The spirit in the group is great, which I think is very important.”

Hampstead went into the winter break in second place but stumbled on their return to action in February, taking just one point from a possible nine against Cambridge City, Maidenhead and Chelmsford – and the latter two sides have finished in the bottom three.

However, H&W responded by thumping pacesetters Slough 3-0 at Paddington Recreation Ground and also won their following two games before finishing off their campaign with Sunday’s tie against St Albans.

“We were starting to improve before Christmas and then we had three not-so-great games,” said Wijtenburg. “It might have been just about getting into it again.

“I remember in the first game against Cambridge we definitely didn’t play that well, but in the two games after that we didn’t actually play that badly.

“We drew against Maidenhead and we had so many chances. We were getting there but we weren’t finishing it, and we’ve definitely done that since then.

“I think the last few weeks have been the best hockey we’ve played, with some great results. We unfortunately drew on Sunday but I’m so positive for next season. I think we could beat any team.”

Wijtenburg is not anticipating another influx into the squad this summer. However, she is hopeful of attracting some of the players who have been pushing to earn a place in Great Britain’s Olympic squad this season, and who might be happy to drop down from the Premier Division and focus a bit more on their jobs next term.

“I definitely think we’ll be a lot more stable,” said the Dutch defender. “We will naturally attract some additional players.

“This has been the year leading up to the Olympics so people might have been trying to get into the national squad, and we’re a central London team.

“We’re in the league below the Premier League. It’s not uncommon for some of the GB girls to play in the National League but I think, leading up the Olympics, lots of them wanted to play at the highest level.

“Next year there’s a bit less commitment from them for GB, so I think we will be a very attractive hockey club, now that we’ve done well in the National League.

“Some people might be interested in looking a bit more at their careers in London, so we hope that maybe some of the girls would consider us.”