Fareham rolled up their sleeves to produce a battling 3-1 win at Oxton on the Wirral – and so keep give their prospects of National Hockey League survival a significant boost.
It was a do-or-die affair for Fareham, whose five-year stay in the Western Conference depended on the outcome of the second phase of the relegation trilogy on the banks of the Dee Estuary.
Had Oxton had improved on last weekend’s 4-3 win at Indian Gymkhana and beaten Fareham, the Hampshire club would have been playing newly promoted Winchester in South League Premier Division 1 come the autumn.
Now they’ve a great chance of staying in the National pyramid – and renewing rivalries with neighbours Havant.
“But that will hinge on them beating or even drawing with Indian Gym at Henry Cort on Saturday week, April 22.
“The job’s only half gone,” pointed out the experienced Nigel Cook, standing in for head coach Ben Barnes, who had flown to Florida for a family Easter holiday.
Drag flicker Jamie Rawlings as among the absentees for Fareham, who included five regular second teamers in their patched-up squad.
“Our lads produced a terrific performance in front of a large and partisan Oxton crowd and thoroughly deserved their rewards.”
Cook explained that an enormous amount of preparation had gone into the Oxton match, on which Fareham’s immediate future hinged.
“We’d watched and filmed their match with Indian Gymkhana, so were able to get a game plan set down,” he said.
Cook produced a pre-match ‘Churchillan’ speech to get the Fareham squad fully focussed, but his motivational words were almost fell on deaf ears as Danny and Jamie Rawlings found themselves snarled up in the Liverpool city road works and pitched up ten minutes into the game.
No damage was done as Fareham rebuffed one Oxton penalty corner – and twice gone close themselves with Alex Boxall and James Evans testing Olly Green, the hosts’ goalkeeper.
Fareham’s confidence grew as they fought for every ball, denying Oxton space to launch any meaningful moves.
Midway through the half, Fareham forced their solitary penalty corner – and James Seager sent a pin-point drag flick into the far corner to give the visitors a crucial 17th minute lead and relieve any half-time pressure.
Fareham continued to keep things tight at the back, often causing problems of their own making through loose turnovers.
Oxton forced a series of penalty corners – George Harris making one fine save with an outstretched leg – but as Fareham launched a decent and sustained spell of their own, James Evans drilled a low shot on to the backboard (after some good work on the right by Tom Seebold) to make it 2-0.
Oxton’s own National League future was now under considerable threat and when Ali McKenzie scored to trim Fareham’s lead to 2-1 there was everything to play for.
But their joy was short lived as Chris Davey effectively sealed a crucial Fareham victory with a third visitors’ goal – and send their bench wild with excitement … and relief !
Harris pulled off two fine saves as Oxton launched a desperate late bid to salvage the game.
Tom Seebold literally put his head on the line, needing hospital treatment after receiving facial lacerations when an Oxton cross-shot hit him on the forehead.
Seebold was allowed to return to his Wickham home after minor surgery – but his spirit typified the way Fareham played on the day.
So, now Fareham’s future hinges on Indian Gymkhana’s visit to Henry Cort on Saturday week (1pm) – a match they have to win by three clear goals to save themselves from the drop.
Fareham: Harris, Seebold, Price, Larcombe, Raymond, Davey, Seager, D Rawlings, Boxall, Wilson, Evans, Young, Roche, Page, S Rawlings, Kemp.
* Fareham’s 3-1 win on Deeside means that Trojans are safe from relegation from South Premier Division 2.
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