NOW: Pensions Menís Premier League: Week Two Preview

Hampstead v Beeston

After all the build-up and all the anticipation leading in to the new season, last weekend saw the return of the NOW: Pensions Men’s Premier League and it did not disappoint. Twenty-one goals across five games, some interesting results and a return to form for some of the traditional big hitters gave us plenty to think about in what promises to be a very open season in the Premier League.
Words and pictures by Ross Bone

Last year’s runners-up, Surbiton produced arguably the most eye-catching result with a second half blitz to defeat Hampstead and Westminster 5-1. Coach Todd Williams told England Hockey: “We were happy with the result given it was the first game of the season and how slow we were to get up to top speed before half time. That said, Hampstead played well in the first half and deserved their lead. To turn the game around fairly convincingly in the second half was very pleasing.”

The Sugden Road side travel to new boys Sheffield Hallam this weekend. Hallam were beaten 3-0 by East Grinstead, with two goals coming in the last four minutes. Williams is under no illusions about the task they face against Vicky Joel’s team: “As Canterbury proved last year, the quality you need to produce over a season to achieve promotion via the Conference play-offs could well be enough to get you into the top half of the Premier League. I’m sure Sheffield have identified their home fixtures as a priority and so that will mean that both literally and mentally, this will be a long way away from last week's match at home.”

Reigning champions Beeston flexed their muscles with an impressive 3-1 win over a strong Wimbledon side. Matt Taylor, in his first game in charge was understandably satisfied: “It took us a while to get going, but thankfully in the second half we picked our performance up. It was great to see Sam Ward score a brace on his return to the club. Generally it was a very hard fought game but one I felt we deserved to win.”

In arguably the pick of the games, Beeston host Reading, fresh from a 3-1 win of their own over Canterbury. Charlie Seccombe, the Reading coach accepted his side were not at their best in their opening fixture, but is looking forward to their clash with the Bees: “At the moment it’s about picking up the three points and improving gradually so that eventually we’re firing on all cylinders. By Sunday we’ll have had a bit more corner preparation and another week together so after a couple of training sessions we’ll be ready to go up against Beeston. It’s always a tough game against them, especially away from home but I’m confident we can go there and come away with three points.”

Wimbledon will be aiming to bounce back from their opening day disappointment by securing their first win in the top flight as they visit Chase Park to line up against Cannock. The Nockers were also victims of an opening 3-1 loss, at the hands of Loughborough Students. The Students, having made the perfect start with a James Spain goal in the first minute of the season, make the journey south to Hampstead and Westminster. Hampstead coach Tom Kavanagh will be keen to see his side put last week’s troubles behind them and give a good show in front of the home crowd: “We welcome our first challenger to 'The Cage' this year in Loughborough. We’re looking forward to an open, free-flowing game and we aim to improve on last week’s performance.”

That just leaves the Kent-Sussex clash at Polo Farm between Canterbury and East Grinstead. Although Canterbury were beaten by Reading first up, their captain Michael Farrer praised the efforts of his team which contained five debutants. Even though East Grinstead made a good start, Farrer sees no reason for his side to fear anyone:

“We made Polo Farm a bit of a fortress last year, so we’re happy taking on anyone at home. Obviously EG have some quality players but we had a great game with them last season, where we won 3-2, so I’m hoping for more of the same.”

Mark Pearn, East Grinstead coach is equally upbeat about his team’s chances this weekend: “We are looking forward to seeing David Condon make his league debut after his successful international summer and we also welcome back from injury Iain Lewers, who will make his first appearance for the club since the Olympic Games.” He added: “We have been working hard this week to make sure we are able to take a few more of the goal scoring opportunities we create. Our matches against Canterbury are usually very exciting affairs with plenty of attacking hockey and goalmouth action, so it should be a good game.”

With a number of big games this Sunday it is shaping up to be another exciting and action-packed matchday in the NOW: Pensions Men’s Premier League. Keep an eye on the results section of the England Hockey website for all the results and scorers from all the games.

Fixtures for 22 September:

Canterbury vs. East Grinstead 12.45 PFW

Sheffield Hallam vs. Surbiton 13.30 DALE

Beeston vs. Reading 14.00 BeeW

Cannock vs. Wimbledon 14.00 Chse

Hampstead and Westminster vs. Loughborough Students 14.00 PRW