Improving Fareham are off the bottom of the National Hockey League Western Conference after gaining their first point of the season from an entertaining 2-2 draw with Chichester at Henry Cort.
They scored first through Jamie Rawlings, but needed an Alex Boxall equaliser six minutes from time to cancel out the 2-1 lead Oli Baxter had given Chichester.
It was a welcome respite for Fareham, who had lost their two opening games to newly promoted Old Georgians and Team Bath, conceding ten goals and scoring only once themselves.
“We have improved massively in the first three matches and I am very proud of their team spirit and cohesiveness,” said head coach Ben Barnes.
“It was great to get something out of the game with the effort the lads put in to training and the Chichester match.”
Fareham were full of purpose from the push back, bossing the midfield and taking a fifth minute lead through Jamie Rawlings, who sped a drag flick past Chichester’s Polish international goalkeeper Mac Pacanowski.
Some fine stick work by Gurmukh Bhamra almost led to a second Fareham goal, but Chris Davey rolled his shot wide.
George Harris (pictured in action) was the busier of the goal-minders, however, making several fine saves before Ollie Baxter deflected a shot from Luke Emmett past him shortly before half-time.
Chichester were the stronger side after the break, but Harris continued to thwart them, denying Alex Thakore and Jamie Whitehouse before Andrew Sparsholt’s powerful run into the D from the right-hand side led to the West Sussex side taking a 54th minute lead.
Again Harris made the save, but Thakore’s shot was picked up by Baxter to make it 2-1.
Two green cards and a sin-bin for Scott Rawlings increased the problems for Fareham, but back to a full compliment they drew level six minutes from time.
Davey responded to fire a low cross-shot across Pacanowski’s bows and Boxall got a clever reverse stick touch to force it home.
Fareham almost won it late on, but the Pole twice denied Davey then James Seager to earn Chichester a deserved share of the points.
Barnes reflected: “They threatened to put the game out of reach, but we kept our heads, defended well and when the chance to break came we had two or three good opportunities to score and we took one to equalise.
“George Harris in goal was exceptional, we defended bravely and intelligently and when we did get the ball wide early and stretch Chichester we looked dangerous.”
Fareham remain several players down on last year’s strength, but they will have a boost from Down Under for Sunday’s visit to Exeter University.
Sasha Thomas, a 19-year old who is in Hockey Australia Futures squad, arrives tomorrow and will go straight into the Fareham team for the West Country trip.
Welcome to Vimps at the Hockey
Powered by Cricket-Hockey.com, the hockey equipment specialists in Downton, Salisbury