Havant swing into the home straight in the Western Conference title race six points clear at the top after an excellent win against Oxford Hawks – but are quick to acknowledge their last four games are very tough, either against challengers for the title or those hoping to make automatic qualification for the new First Division next season or the seventh place play off position.
The three clubs finishing 7th in the three Conference Leagues enter a three team round robin tournament with the top two teams qualifying for the new First Division. The team that comes bottom from the three teams stays in the Conference League, which becomes a third tier competition with a number of teams who currently play in the regional Premier Division 1 being promoted.
University of Bristol, whom Havant visit at Coombe Down on Sunday, and Fareham look to be playing for the 7th place play off position and what makes it even more interesting is that they play each other on March 24, the penultimate league game of the season.
University of Bristol won 1-0 against Chichester last weekend, which will give them confidence as they lead Fareham by five points at present.
Havant need three points against University of Bristol and Chichester, plus one more point from University of Birmingham and Olton & West Warwick, to be champions, but one can run the permutations all day long and probably not come out with the answer in a league which has seen plenty of surprises and has been one of the closest West Conference Leagues for years.
Havant will need to beware the finishing prowess of University of Bristol’s forward Rufus McNaught-Barrington, who is the league’s top scorer with 18 goals, five field strikes and ten penalty corner conversions, plus three more from strokes.
Fareham can do Havant a big favour if they beat second placed Birmingham University at Henry Cort (1.30) and are boosted by the return of key midfielder Niall Stott (pictured below), who has been suffering from a calf injury.
Chichester, knocked out of the Tier 1 Cup after a 3-1 defeat by Cheltenham last week, host Oxford Hawks at the College.
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