George Harris turned the clock back with a vintage display of goalkeeping which inspired Winchester to a 2-1 win over promotion chasing Indian Gymkhana, arguably the season’s biggest South League Premier Division upset.
The Winchester player/coach, who had planned to retire when he left Fareham two seasons ago, produced a string of outstanding saves, particularly in the second half.
The victory at Kings’ edged Winchester off the foot of the table on goal difference above West Hampstead, whom they face in a crucial relegation showdown in London on Saturday.
The pair occupy the bottom two places on the log, each with 13 points from 18 games, with Winchester having a three-goal difference advantage.
Both sides started positively but the brilliant close skills of the visitors began to bear fruit with early penalty corners. With Alex Idoine, a penalty corner specialist with a mighty 45 goals in 17 games in their ranks, Gymkhana might have been expected to make hay with these opportunities, but, in a theme that would run throughout the game, Winchester's defence dealt with the danger.
However, it was a Gymkhana open play goal from Pravinder Hanspal that broke the deadlock on 15 minutes, benefitting from a stunning piece of skill from his teammate provider deep in Winchester's left flank.
Having suffered a 7-0 defeat in the reverse fixture, Winchester might have accepted their fate, but their work-rate was tireless, much of the play coming through skipper Kieran Malloy taking the ball with his back to the opposition goal under great pressure but distributing freely.
Winchester were also pleased to have Adam Tollefsen and Ben Francis back in their squad after long absences, plus U18 debutant Josh Fiske, all of whom had strong positive influences on the performance.
Mark Maunsell had a fierce strike well saved just ahead of half time which added to player/coach George Harris's rousing mid-game appeal [passages from Churchill and Henry V at Agincourt flowed] to believe that this game was there for the winning.
Both sides had early second half chances Olly Lander forcing a good save from the Gymkhana keeper, but ten minutes in, Winchester's first penalty corner bore fruit as a clever disguised move to the left found Ben Hibberd, who slid the ball to the far post for Todd Hutcheson to divert home to draw level.
What then followed was one of the great goalkeeping performances in recent Winchester's history as Harris denied a relentless flurry of penalty corners and open play opportunities from the urgent visitors.
One was a breath-taking dive high to his left to divert from the top corner, but as important as the three of four outstanding saves made was his consistency in the large number of straightforward smother and clear type saves, that often elude keepers and lead to frustrating goals. The one time he was unable to reach a goal bound strike, Harry Trussler was on hand to divert round the post.
With 15 minutes remaining, Hibberd sent in a dangerous cross from the base line and after an initial two saves from the Gymkhana keeper, Nick Clark lifted the ball into the net to take a 2-1 lead.
The visitors had a further two penalty corners, but the game's pattern endured, Gymkhana totalling in excess of ten such corners in the game without return.
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