THERE’S more than local pride to play for when Winchester and Trojans go head-to-head in the season’s second South Hockey League Premier Division 2 derby at Kings’ on Saturday, 2pm.
Winchester are pressing hard for promotion, whereas Trojans are desperate for points in their bid to stave off relegation to the Regional Leagues.
To add spice to an already enthralling showdown, Trojans ended Winchester’s nine-match unbeaten start, 4-2 in early December.
The stakes could hardly be higher for Winchester as they contest a four-sided promotion battle with faltering leaders Oxford University, West Hampstead and Tulse Hill & Dulwich.
A succession of erratic results has seen the Dark Blues’ lead at the top trimmed to a single point - a situation that could change dramatically this weekend with the university students hosting a crunch game with Tulse Hill, who then receive Winchester on Sunday.
Winchester could only manage a 2-2 draw at lowly Holcombe – Ben Hibberd and Will Phillips were on target – but with Oxford University and Tulse Hill both losing, it was a point gained rather than two lost.
Trojans took a 6-1 thrashing from third placed West Hampstead, but bounced back to nick a 2-1 win at Purley Walcountians – a result which edged them out of the automatic relegation zone occupied by Holcombe and Lewes.
A razor-sharp drag flick by Laxman Karan and a second soon afterwards by Tom Bullock had Trojans chasing the game against a well drilled West Hampstead, who are emerging a real threat to Winchester’s promotion challenge.
West Hampstead went on to win 6-1, with Ben Frost scoring Trojans’ consolation effort.
The result put Trojans in the bottom two – but it didn’t affect them 24 hours later.
“At Purley we played with a freedom that had been missing in recent weeks,” said Duncan Stewart.
Purley struggled to cope with the pace of the Trojans attack, with James Watts drifting into the circle unmarked to give the visitors a welcome tenth minute lead.
Despite continuing pressure, Trojans were unable to add to their lead before the break, although Scott Summers nearly extended their advantage early in the second half, his fiercely struck shot forcing a fine save.
Graham Lester equalised and, after goalkeeper Phil Roch had produced two fine saves, Rich Aves was first to react to a rebound off the upright for what proved Trojans’ winner.
Yellow cards saw Trojans reduced to nine players for the final five minutes, but they held out for a win which could prove so vital in their bid for survival.
“It should also give us much needed confidence for Saturday’s derby at Winchester and our England Hockey Trophy semi-final against Manchester-based Didsbury Northern at Stoneham Lane on Sunday, 1.30,” Stewart added.
Didsbury are currently unbeaten and top of the North West League.
Trojans will be without Sam Broadhurst, who has been banned for 16 days. They face four matches in an eight-day period.
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