Three goals down inside the opening 25 minutes, Fareham rallied to pull off a stunning penalty shoot-out victory over Chichester – the reward for which is a juicy trip to Reading in England Hockey’s Tier 1 Championship quarter-finals on March 18.
They were all at sea after a hat-trick by England Under-16 prospect Alex Pendle left them trailing 3-0.
James Seager launched an Fareham fight-back which saw Chichester’s lead trimmed by half-time and completely wiped out in a second half when the visitors scored twice more and ought to have gone on to win the match.
But from 3-3 at the end of normal time, Fareham went on to win the resulting penalty shoot-out 4-2, with second team novice goalkeeper Rory Kemp twice diving to his right to make fine saves.
Pendle certainly penalised Fareham’s sluggish start, opening Chichester’s account inside the opening five minutes and then twice converting penalty corners.
But despite Fareham’s initial poor showing head coach Ben Barnes remained optimistic.
“Even at 3-0 I always felt if we got a goal before half time then we had a chance as there was plenty of time left in the game,” he said.
“There were clearly things that needed to be addressed at half time, the sluggish start did not help us and we shuffled a few players around to give the team a better balance and shape was simple things we needed.
“The players then responded to a couple of ideas and played really well second half. We used the ball better and our press shape was much tighter so we were able to limit Chichester to very few opportunities second half.”
Seager sparked the Fareham comeback after a short corner, while the visitors really took control when Jamie Rawlings made it 3-2 from another set-piece and then converted a penalty stroke.
“Once we were back to 3-3 only ten minutes in to the second half we really should have gone on to win it in normal time, but Macjec Pacanowski was very good in the Chi goal.
“Scott Rawlings and Luke Cornish tested him three times each and Martin Gough also went close but saw his sharp chance agonisingly go across the face of goal and past the left post from a tight angle.”
Fareham were full of confidence going into the shoot-out, with Jamie Rawlings and Luke Cornish converting their strokes, before goalkeeper Rory Kemp twice out-witted Chichester with fine saves to give his side the edge.
Conversions by Scott Rawlings and Chichester old boy Martin Gough wrapped up Fareham’s 4-2 win.
“The confidence of the second half performance probably helped going in to the penalties as four out of five were well taken and Rory stepped up to be the hero saving two from Chichester,” Barnes reflected.
Fareham are using the new Tier 1 championships to blood their young talent and Barnes can’t wait to take his charges to Sonning on March 18 – a Reading ground on which he enjoyed success as a player.
“It’s a cracking draw against a Reading side once again in the thick of the Premier Division mix and a trip our lads can only learn from,” he smiled.
The draw for the quarter-finals on March 18 is: Beston v Birmingham University, Bowdon v Sheffield Hallam, Old Loughtonians v Oxted, Reading v Fareham.
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