Fareham’s National Hockey League future could be decided 260 miles away on Sunday lunchtime – in Birkenhead !
They face North Premier League outfit Oxton in the second of a triple leg National League relegation play-off – and it’s a game they simply cannot afford to lose.
Finishing second from bottom of the Western Conference, Fareham are involved in a three-way battle for survival against Oxton and Indian Gymkhana, who finished in identical positions in the North and East Divisions.
Oxton have already drawn first blood in the trilogy by beating Indian Gymkhana 4-3 and if they win at their Caldy headquarters on the Wirral on Sunday, Fareham are down.
Fareham Head Coach Ben Barnes clarified: “We must avoid defeat at Oxton to stay in the play-offs and then get a better result than Oxton did against Indian Gymkhana to stay up.
“If we win both play-offs games, we’ll stay up. If we lose on Sunday we will be relegated.”
Fareham are leaving on stone unturned in their desperate bid to stave off relegation.
Barnes filmed the entire Gymkhana-Oxton match so Fareham can probe any weaknesses and organise their tactics accordingly.
One significant absentee for Fareham will be influential Australian Sash Thomas, who has returned to Western Australia.
Fareham’s unwanted presence in the National League play-offs had led to their withdrawal from the Hampshire Knockout Cup, which has its quarter and semi-finals at the Southampton Sports Centre on Saturday.
Fareham thrashed Havant – newly promoted to the Western Conference as South Premier League champions – 6-1 in last season’s final, but have reluctantly relinquished their hold on the trophy.
Their absence makes Havant strong favourites to lift the county trophy, though they will have to beat either Bournemouth or Winchester to make the May Day final at Aldershot.
Saturday’s matches –
Quarter-finals: 10.45: Wimborne Wayfarers v Yateley, 12 Bournemouth v Winchester, 1.15 Haslemere v Havant. Bye: Trojans. Semi-finals at 2.30 and 3.45pm.
Quarter-finals: 1045 City of Portsmouth v Southampton University, 12 Weymouth v Salisbury, 1.15 Gosport v Southampton. Semi-finals at 2.30 and 3.45pm.
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