Two goals each by Craig Jeffrey and Micah Smithart, alongside a Ben Hibberd penalty stroke, swept Winchester to a 5-2 opening day win over ten-man Indian Gymkhana at Osterley.
It was the perfect start for the city club, who have appointed retired Fareham goalkeeper George Harris as head coach.
Winchester, who aim to be among the promotion contenders this season, didn’t make the best of starts, finding themselves a goal down to Gymkhana’s short corner man Julian Heck.
Smithart, pictured, put Winchester on level terms with a similar set-piece, shortly after which Gymkhana were bizarrely reduced to ten men – their skipper red carded for violent conduct after appearing to strike one of his own team-mates in the face !
Winchester made the most of their numerical superiority, scoring twice to establish a 3-1 half-time lead.
A neat finish by Jeffrey made it 2-1 before a near move involving Jack Culmer and Hibberd laid on a second for Smithart.
Indian Gymkhana were reduced to nine by a ten-minute yellow card at the start of the second half, effectively handing Winchester control and allowing them to attack at will.
Winchester ought to have consolidated their position at this stage, but chances went begging.
Despite their two-goal cushion, things didn’t get any easier for Winchester, who saw teenager Harry Trussler and Craig Sims leave the field with head injuries, the second prompting another Gymkhana yellow card dismissal.
Winchester eventually did nail the points – Hibberd converting a penalty after being taken out in the D before setting up the fifth goal with a long downfield aerial ball, which picked out Jeffrey to make it 5-1.
Heck pulled a second goal back for Gymkhana in the dying minutes.
Coach George Harris praised his Winchester players for their self discipline.
He said: “We held our nerve and discipline despite some intense passages of play where the umpires were put under a lot of pressure to make big decisions.
“It was really encouraging to see youngsters Rory Penrose and Harry Trussler more than hold their own in that environment.
“My only regret is that we could and should have scored two or three more goals, but we have the chance to put that right against Milton Keynes at Kings’ on Saturday, 2pm.”
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