Winchester pulled off an excellent 3-2 win at Kings’ against strong title contenders, Old Cranleighans courtesy of a Todd Hutcheson (left) first half brace and a brilliant individual goal from Kent Langridge in the dying minutes.
The visitors lay second in the South League Premier Division 1 coming into the game, having been knocked off top spot the previous week when they were snowed off and their rivals Spencer (who beat Henley 3-2) missed the weather.
Their quality was apparent in the first two minutes as they took the lead from a Jay Harman penalty corner.
A fierce midfield battle then ensued with Winchester being less carefree with their passing and ball control than in recent weeks and were able to match the quality of their opponents in most aspects, much of the Winchester play down the right channel with hard-working Mark Maunsell to the fore.
Both sides had penalty corner opportunities, one Winchester effort being created by a sublime disguised spin pass from Ben Hibberd.
Winchester then had the ball in the net on 25 minutes, but was brought back for a previous offence.
Five minutes later, South African Todd Hutcheson won the ball in midfield and sprinted forward, exchanging passes with skipper Kieran Malloy and then planting his strike into the corner.
Soon after, Hutcheson (a batsman/wicketkeeper with Camberley in Surrey Championship cricket) was in true goal-poacher mode to slap in Craig Jeffrey's clever pass after he had weaved his way along the by-line.
Winchester's unlikely 2-1 half-time lead remained for ten minutes, Cranleighans putting relentless pressure on the home defence, waiting for a passing error, Craig Sim having to step in on numerous occasions to prevent a final shot.
Eventually the pressure told in unfortunate circumstances as a cross pass by Matt Laidman was deflected-in off a defender past the helpless keeper, Dave Jones. 2-2.
Jones was then to become a central figure in the remaining twenty five minutes, brushing away a series of Cranleighan efforts, especially one notable double save.
With six minutes remaining, the drama ramped up as Kent Langridge relieved an OC midfielder of the ball on the half way line and engaged the burners to live the opposition for dead, striding into the "D" and threading his shot past the keepers left boot, as pictured above.
Winchester survived a couple of late scares, including a penalty corner awarded at the death, to mark a notable victory. Landridge will have been pleased to be a hero on the occasion of his father, Winchester HC's stalwart Tony's, sixtieth birthday.
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