The South Hockey League Premier Division 2 title race is set to go to the wire, with only four points separating leaders Oxford University, Winchester and third placed Tulse Hill & Dulwich, who still have the top two to play.
Oxford unexpectedly spilled points when unpredictable Bournemouth held them 3-3 at Chapel Gate – a result which coincided with Winchester thumping Purley Walcountians 6-0 and Tulse Hill beating Staines 3-2.
That Saturday sequence gave Winchester the chance to go top – but they fluffed their lines in the rearranged 1-1 draw with West Hampstead 24 hours later.
Every point is now crucial for the trio, with Tulse Hill’s home matches against the Dark Blues and Winchester over the weekend March 18 and 19 likely to be critical.
Winchester were a goal up inside the first minute against Purley, with Rob Moore blasting a reverse strike past the helpless Walcountians keeper.
The visitors did show some steel at this point and threatened on a number of occasions before Winchester moved further ahead after 15 minutes, Kent Langridge volleying-in off the keeper following a period of intense pressure.
Ben Hibberd fired into the side netting and Rob Moore almost repeated his first minute effort before the increasingly-impressive Isaac Hocking gave Winchester control of the game just before half time.
Purley regrouped after the break and had their best spell with central defenders Kevin Boniface and Craig Simms at their best to snuff out any threat.
Any hope of a Purley revival was removed when some excellent umpiring allowed play to continue after a clear penalty corner foul on Hibberd.
Harry Talks, unlike the Purley defenders, did not pause and planted the ball into the net for Winchester's fourth.
The fifth was not far behind, Moore crashing a shot into the post and with the ball in play, Hocking forced a good save from the keeper.
Hibberd reacted at the far post to make it 5-0.
Moore then topped and tailed the scoring for the day with a solo run and a shot into the top left hand corner with immense power.
If only Winchester could have repeated the dose against West Hampstead they would have been going to Holcombe on Saturday top of the log, instead of trailing Oxford University (at home to Staines) by two points.
There was a very different feel to the rescheduled Sunday game from the outset.
Although the pace was high, both defences were well organised and goal mouth incidents were few and far between as most attacks ran out of steam as they reached the danger areas.
Winchester did force a good save out of West Hampstead's excellent keeper from an early penalty corner, but Rob Moore's 25th minute strike, also drawing a good save, was otherwise the first meaningful goalkeeper action at either end.
It kick started a period of sustained Winchester pressure during which they failed to convert to goals and would ultimately cost them the full three points.
Despite this, the last play of the half saw Winchester’s own shot stopper Caelan Dillon pulled of a terrific penalty corner save.
West Hampstead broke through in the fourth minute of the second half with Ben Battcock deflecting a crashed-in pass high into the net.
Winchester looked a bit stunned but were rewarded for renewed efforts with an equaliser ten minutes later when Mark Maunsell found room to strike at goal but his mis-directed effort was diverted home by the alert Will Phillips at the far post.
Winchester were still the marginally stronger team, but twice late on Dillon pulled off stunning saves to prevent the Middlesex visitors snatching the win points.
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