Depleted Winchester were hit for six by South League Premier Division high fliers Old Cranleighians, who scored four unanswered first goals and ran out comfortable 6-2 winners.
It was Winchester’s third successive defeat after a two-win opener to the league season.
They took only 13 players to Thames Ditton, with retired former Fareham goalkeeper and now Winchester coach George Harris having to dust off his face mask and pads and play.
He explained: “We are very short of numbers at the moment and taking 13 players into the game forced our hands a little.
“Having to play deeper and conserve energy isn’t really our game. I was also pressed into service given injuries and unavailability of our goalies and had a poor game.”
Matt Murphy notched a hat-trick as OC’s strolled into a 4-0 half-time lead through some poor midfield and defensive turnovers and a soft penalty corner.
“I called for some pride in the shirt at half time and the team delivered, with Kieran Molloy and teenager Rory Penrose pulling two goals back,” Harris added.
“We exerted pressure much higher up the field (where we are more comfortable) and competed a lot better effectively drawing the second half 2-2.
“In reality, with the depth of squad we should be targeting a top four place and, whilst we want to win every game, the Wayfarers and OCs results won’t define our season.
“We now have two games against Henley (King’s, Saturday, 2pm) and Banbury which even at this stage are critical to us getting back on track.
“We have players returning which will give us a boost and we will make the necessary tactical tweaks needed this week to give us the best chance in those games.”
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