Hampstead & Westminster's unbeaten women work hard to pass Loughborough test
PUBLISHED: 15:30 24 October 2019
Hampstead & Westminster's women extended their unbeaten run in the Investec League Premier Division to six matches with a hard-fought win at Loughborough.
Having rallied from a three-goal deficit to draw 4-4 with East Grinstead, the squad travelled north to take on fellow top flight newcomers with both sides missing international players ahead of Great Britain's Olympic qualifiers next weekend (November 2-3).
The game got off to a fast start, with the students putting Hampstead under early pressure and it was clear the hosts were well-drilled and hard to break down.
Both sides had chances as the first half progressed, with Hampstead unable to convert several penalty corners.
Hampstead regained momentum in the second half, playing fluid, attacking hockey which opened up space and opportunities.
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Holly Hunt showed great skill and composure through the centre of the field and connected with Joyce Esser in the D, who calmly slotted home with an impressive finish over the diving keeper.
Loughborough piled on the pressure after that, but Hampstead keeper Roxy Gianfrancesco fended off numerous chances as the visitors brought all three points back to London to remain on the heels of leaders Surbiton ahead of a trip to Clifton Robinsons this Sunday (1pm).
Hampstead & Westminster's men travelled to lowly Reading without seven of their international players and took the lead through Josh Kelly's far-post finish after a strong run down the line by Jonny Gooch.
The hosts levelled from the penalty spot moments later, but Hampstead took control for the rest of the half and well-worked penalty corner goals from Kwan Browne and Rupert Shipperly put them 3-1 up.
Paul Melkert added a stunning fourth goal after the restart with a strong run into the D and fine reverse-stick shot in off the crossbar, but Reading hit back in the final quarter with two goals to set up a tense climax.
Hampstead hung on for the points, though, to keep pace with the top three teams, with a game in hand.
This weekend sees the defending champions host third-placed Wimbledon at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in a Saturday evening fixture starting at 6.15pm.