Fareham head coach Ben Barnes has praised his squad for the “determination and resilience” they showed in securing a 3-1 play-off win over Preston – a result which takes the club a massive step towards securing a place in next season’s restructured England Hockey national Division 1.
They shook off the effects of conceding an early goal to put the first win points on the board in the three-way Conferences promotion play-offs, which also include City of Peterborough, who Fareham visit on Saturday (noon).
“It was one of those days where you have to show you have the determination and resilience to get the job done,” Barnes said.
“We didn’t play at our best, Preston defended well and with both sides missing chances, it made for a close game.
“On another day Preston could have won but ‘winning ugly’ is often the sign of a side with real character and enough quality to get over the line and we did just that.”
Failure to deal with a long aerial ball led to Fareham conceding a tenth minute strike by Preston’s Steven Masterson.
But within five minutes Fareham, so often guilty of conceding possession, were level from a Jamie Rawlings penalty stroke, won by George Davey after a surging run into the circle by Will Seebold.
Influential midfielder Niall Stott hit an upright, while Kiwi keeper Tom Mallon made a fine save to ensure Fareham turned round on level terms.
It took Fareham until 15 minutes into the second period to force their first penalty corner – but when they did former Great Britain Olympian Richard Mantell screamed a trademark drag flick into the Presto net to make it 2-1.
“We had two or three really good chances to put the game to bed after that, but we went in to our shells and stopped playing for the last ten minutes,” Barnes complained.
“Maybe the occasion and the importance of the game got the better of us as Preston forced penalty corners and squandered chances to equalise.
“A bit of luck, some poor finishing and some good goal keeping from Tom Mallon - as well as some brave defending - helped our cause.”
In one final throw of the dice, Preston withdrew their goalkeeper and played with a kicking back – only to be caught on the counter with Davey setting up Will Penrose to make it 3-1 and the game safe for Fareham.
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