Success for Hampstead & Westminster as men’s team escapes drop zone and ladies beat the leaders
PUBLISHED: 15:45 02 March 2016
Hampstead and Westminster enjoyed a successful weekend as their men’s team eased their relegation fears by moving out of the bottom two places, while their women’s side impressively beat the league leaders.
H&W’s men went into a big double-header in the Premier Division on the back of four successive defeats.
However, they secured a goalless draw at home against East Grinstead on Saturday and then returned to Paddington Recreation Ground the following day to beat second-placed Reading 3-1, taking them above Cannock in the table.
Hampstead had the better of the encounter against East Grinstead in their first game of the weekend and new Australian signing Joel Carroll thought he had opened the scoring after 33 minutes as his flick rattled the back board.
But the visiting defenders protested and the assisting umpire overturned the decision of his colleague for an apparent block in the build-up – which turned out to be an important call as the game petered out into a largely uneventful 0-0 draw.
The following day, Hampstead hosted a high-flying Reading side that had won six of their previous eight games.
H&W were 1-0 down after eight minutes as England international Simon Mantell broke the deadlock, yet they fought back strongly. Iain Mackay levelled at the far post with a rare goal on 19 minutes and James Simpson then netted after a well-worked penalty corner routine.
Hampstead had to defend for much of the second half but Andrew Murie finished off a swift counter-attack with six minutes left to make it 3-1.
It leaves Hampstead two points above the bottom two with three games remaining – and two of those take place this weekend, both away from home against fourth-placed Wimbledon and, crucially, Cannock, who have now dropped into the relegation zone.
Like the men’s side, Hampstead’s ladies also had a home game on Saturday and they delayed Slough’s inevitable coronation as champions with a 3-0 triumph in the Women’s Conference East.
The visitors had previously only lost one game all season and only needed one more victory at the Paddington Rec to secure the title.
But Hampstead started with good focus and energy, and when captain Annebeth Wijtenburg fired the ball into the danger area, Joyce Esser casually deflected it between her own legs and those of the goalkeeper to open the scoring.
That gave Hampstead more freedom and they won several penalty corners, with Jasmine Clark converting one to register on her debut in the national league.
Esser struck again after the interval after a cross from Alex Irwin, and some strong defending and fine saves from Hampstead keeper Rochelle Gianfrancesco secured a clean sheet.
Hampstead’s victory took them up to fifth place but they are only two points off second with three games left. They host seventh-placed Sevenoaks on Saturday.
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