Captain's view on weekend 1 of indoor campaign

Jonty Clarke battles against East Grinstead in the Maxi5s indoor hockey championships 2013

Defending champions East Grinstead started their bid for a sixth consecutive indoor title with four wins from four this weekend and they are the only team with a 100% record at the half way stage.

With the game changing from 6-a-side to 5-a-side it was an interesting spectacle to see how teams would cope with the change of tactics, but some things never change as the Sussex side flexed their muscles once more and finished the weekend on top. There was plenty of drama over the first two days of action with 215 goals across 18 games.

Click here for all the results from the weekend’s action.

Ross Bone followed the action on day one and caught up with some of the captains following their games on Saturday to find out what they thought of their team’s performances.

East Grinstead 6-2 Beeston

The first glimpse of reigning champions East Grinstead provided a warning for the rest of the teams in the competition as they beat Beeston 6-2. Both goalkeepers were busy in the first half with Filip Neusser seeing off a couple of Adam Dixon penalty corners and George Pinner making a number of saves, notably blocking Ross Stott’s flick with his face mask before clearing the danger. Despite first half strikes from Sam Ward and Ben Arnold the Bees entered the break trailing 4-2. After half-time Neusser showed his skills once more making a splendid reaction save from Sam Ward’s deflection and then thwarting the same player in a 1v1 situation. At the other end, David Condon set up Hendrik Geyer to make it 5-2 before Niall Stott put a gloss on the score line with a penalty corner at the death, his second of the match giving the side from Saint Hill their first three points of the new campaign.

Beeston Captain Adam Dixon told England Hockey:

“It’s been a steep learning curve for us. We came into the weekend not knowing much about how the other teams would line up and not much about ourselves, either. We’ve had fairly limited training time and I think that showed in the first couple of games. We looked a bit rusty at times, not bad on the ball, but a bit one dimensional. Obviously we’d have liked as many points as possible; especially with the international players away the second weekend but we’ve provided a reasonably good platform.”

Holcombe 4-5 Bowdon

This game took a little time to get going and for a while looked like it might be a routine win for Bowdon who led 3-1 after 26 minutes. Dan Fox’s goal in the 27th minute sparked a flurry of activity as Holcombe, still rotating goalkeeper Allan Dick, hauled themselves back from 3-1 down to lead 4-3. Their fourth goal was the pick of the bunch as they displayed great patience, keeping the ball for a long time before finding an opening and bursting forwards to give David Appleton a chance that he finished well. With the Kent side leading 4-3 they then had a player yellow carded, costing them dearly. Taking full advantage of the extra man Bowdon drew level through Simon Egerton and then with two minutes remaining they clinched the win with an excellent penalty corner from Bart Zwyicka.

After the game Bowdon Captain Ian Wilson was happy with his team’s progress:

“We’ve played really well so far. We didn’t have a lot of preparation so we feel like we’re getting better as the tournament goes on and we’re very pleased with our efforts. It’s nice to have Simon Egerton back in the squad and as you saw this weekend he gives us a little bit extra as he can score a goal out of nothing.” He added “You can’t look beyond East Grinstead, they are always there at the end, Reading too look very strong but we’re confident we can make the semi-finals too.”

Adding his thoughts on the new rule, England Captain Barry Middleton said:

"We’re seeing what’ll happen with the new rules. We have attacking players so with the rules the way they are now we have the chance to be aggressive and play attacking hockey so we’re going to take it. It makes sense to approach it that way.

We haven’t practiced much as is the case with other sides. We’ve decide to play with five a lot. There are pros and cons and you can concede some cheap goals form it but there are goals to be had, too. These are the rules in place so we’re seeing what we can do with them."

Sevenoaks 5-2 Doncaster.

With both sides having drawn their opening game there was everything to play for in this clash between Sevenoaks and Doncaster. As they had done in their first game, Sevenoaks showed what a good team unit they are, sharing the goals amongst five different scorers with three of the goals coming from open play after slick passing moves. Doncaster rallied in the second half with goals from Tim Shelley and Gavin Byers but they had left themselves too much to do and Sevenoaks picked up the win from their second game of the day to move onto four points.

Tim Warrington, Sevenoaks’ Captain was positive about their return to the Premier League saying:

“We played at this level a couple of years ago and only managed three points so to get four on the first day this year is fantastic for us. We came with a game plan and it has worked so far. We had good preparation and a good squad and it seems to be going well for us.” He added: “We set some targets beforehand and we’ve more or less hit them. We knew our opening games would be hard, especially with some of the external players teams have brought in but we have acquitted ourselves pretty well and got some good results.”

Doncaster's Carl Smith gave his thoughts on the new rule:

"The new rule is good for players who dribble but it’s also quite hard work for everyone out there, especially us older players! As we play a lot more minutes with one fewer player it takes its toll.

I think Holcombe’s tactic can be quite effective.  It was hard to break teams down before so it’s good to see teams try something different. However as long as you keep your shape and are disciplined it can leave them open to the counterattack. You can’t afford to give the ball away so it’s a pressure tactic. I’m surprised more teams haven’t tried it but getting the keeper to half way put us off a bit. Maybe if teams get a green or a yellow we might try it so we can really make it five against three outfield. "

Loughborough Students 3-8 Canterbury

Having narrowly lost their first game Canterbury bounced back and produced an impressive performance to get back on track with an 8-3 thumping of Loughborough Students. Although the students played some nice pass and move hockey, Canterbury did an excellent job of soaking up the pressure and hitting Loughborough on the break. Kwan Browne was in typically imperious form, scoring four times in the match and despite the efforts of Chris Griffiths and Dom Bowden for the students, the Kent side’s ruthlessness in front of goal told, and they won in relative comfort.

After the game, Canterbury Captain Tom Richford told England Hockey:

“We’ve been quite happy with how we’ve played. We were a bit unlucky at times and some individual mistakes have let us down but overall we’re happy with our performances. We’re slightly behind where we wanted to be. We could, maybe should have picked up some more points but we’ve set up something to build on.” He added:  “We’re looking to get into the top four, maybe win the league like last year and Wembley is definitely the aim. We’re adapting to the new rules well and we feel we have the ability to get to finals night and that’s where we want to be.”

Adding his thoughts on the new rule, Kwan Browne of Canterbury said:

"I saw Holcombe’s first game, five times they conceded when the keeper was off and only scored once. I don’t think it worked in their favour in a 9-9 draw. We know that they are doing this in Germany all the time, but the Germans are top quality players. That’s not to say there aren’t good players here, but if one player makes a mistake or isn’t where they should be, it’s a goal. If you are taking your goalkeeper off, your players have to be really top quality. We have some good players but we don’t hint we’ll try it unless they have a player carded which then allows us to go 5 against 3. It’s more of an emergency rather than a regular thing for us to try."

Reading 6-8 East Grinstead.

The last game of the day was a repeat of last year’s final, which East Grinstead won 7-1. This game was a lot closer and as with the other games of the day, had plenty of drama, too.

As you’d expect when these two meet, the game was played at an incredible pace with both sides showcasing some excellent close control and some lovely attacking hockey. As in the first game, Filip Neusser was impressive making important saves from Simon Mantell and Tom Carson, amongst others. Reading showed they were a match for the defending champions and actually led 5-2 with just over ten minutes to go. East Grinstead called for a timeout which seemed to galvanise them as they hit back through Glenn Kirkham to set up a terrific finish. They got back to 5-4 with a field goal from Niall Stott only for Tom Carson to cut in from the left and restore the two goal cushion with a lovely finish. They game became very open as the clock ticked down and both sides had chances to make the game their own. It looked as though the points were heading to Sonning Lane when Niall Stott missed a stroke but with time running out East Grinstead produced a stunning late show, with goals from Joe Naughahlty (36 minutes), Ross Stott (39) Hendrik Geyer (39) and Kirkham (40) giving them a thrilling 8-6 win.

Reading Captain Richard Springham was unable to contain his disappointment at the final whistle, saying:

“We knew the first weekend would be tough. We were up against strong indoor teams. We were pleased to get a win on the board early against Canterbury and for 30 minutes against East Grinstead we were on top but then they changed it up last ten and showed why they’ve won it so many times. We’re frustrated a bit to not have more points but it’s not the end of the world.”

With four places in the Wembley semi-finals still up for grabs and a full weekend of fixtures coming up in January  it is still all to play for as the teams battle it out for those all important points.  

The Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Finals will be played on 2 February 2014 at Wembley Arena. You can get more information and buy tickets at