Kent derby as Men's National Hockey League begins

England's Ashley Jackson is challenged by Trindad and Tobago's Mickell Pierre during their pool game at the XX Commonwealth Games 450, Photo by Ady Kerry

Holcombe play host to Canterbury as the Kent derby clash provides the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division with a mouth-watering start on Saturday evening.

After going unbeaten on their way to the Conference East title last season, ambitious Holcombe have boosted their squad further by the signing of England and GB ace Ashley Jackson (pictured) from East Grinstead, while his international team-mate Sam Ward has also signed on from Beeston.

But Canterbury, who narrowly avoided relegation last term, also have several new faces as they bid to improve on last season. Ivo Moreira joins them from Sport Club do Porto, while Tariq Marano has moved from Malvern SC in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Playing Canterbury in our first match will be great for Kent hockey,” said Holcombe’s president and first team manager Keith Martin. “It should be a great atmosphere.

“They are never an easy side to play against. They have for a lot of experience and they will be well organised, well disciplined and hard to break down. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and playing our usual attacking hockey.

“We’re looking to consolidate our position in the Premier Division this season. We know we will lose the international players for the World League and training camps for Rio Olympics, which could rule them out for a third of the season, but that will give the chance for our other players to stake their claim for a first team place.”

Beeston head to Cannock in Saturday evening’s other Premier Division clash. England and GB international Mark Gleghorne has joined Beeston from East Grinstead.

Sunday sees the 2015 title winners Wimbledon travel to Brooklands Manchester University in their opening match. Matthias Knuepfer joins the champions from German club An der Alster and Richie Dawson-Smith returns to England from Harvestuder. Brooklands have signed goalkeeper Rob Turner from Bowdon.

Also on Sunday Surbiton play host to East Grinstead. Surbiton welcome New Zealander Andrew Hayward who joins from Hampstead. EG have signed Adam Seccull from St Kilda, Australia, Jannis Schwebs from Berliner and, closer to home, Ben Alberry from Canterbury.

The other game in the top flight sees Reading at home against Hampstead and Westminster. This will see an early return for Richard Springham who left the Berkshire side for Hampstead in the summer. Hampstead’s other newcomers include Pakistan international Muhammad Irfan who played for Olton last season and Stu Loughrey from Cannock.

The Conference East also starts on Saturday with Richmond versus Teddington while promoted Sevenoaks host last season’s runners-up Bromley and Beckenham.

Conference North champions Bowdon travel to the University of Durham in their opening fixture of Sunday, while runners-up Sheffield Hallam take on Preston at Abbeydale.

Champions Team Bath Buccaneers entertain Conference West newcomers Chichester Priory Park on Sunday, who have switched divisions from the East for 2015-16.

Cardiff and Met – who just missed out on the title in the final week last season – begin their new season with a home match against Guildford.

Men’s Hockey League (Saturday, September 12 2015)

Premier Division
Cannock v Beeston 19:00
Holcombe v Canterbury 18:00

Conference East
Richmond v Teddington 18:00
Sevenoaks v Bromley and Beckenham 17:30

Men’s Hockey League (Sunday, September 13 2015)

Premier Division
Brooklands Manchester Univ v Wimbledon 14:00
Reading v Hampstead and Westminster 14:30
Surbiton v East Grinstead 14:00

Conference West
Cardiff & Met v Guildford 12:30
Cheltenham v Indian Gymkhana 12:30
Isca v Fareham 12:30
Team Bath Buccaneers v Chichester Priory Park 13:00
Univ of Birmingham v Univ of Exeter 12:30

Conference North
Deeside Ramblers v Lichfield 13:30
Olton and West Warwicks v Loughborough Students 13:30
Sheffield Hallam v Preston 15:30
Univ of Durham v Bowdon 14:00
Wakefield v Doncaster 14:00

Conference East
Brighton and Hove v Oxted 13:00
Cambridge City v Harleston Magpies 13:00
West Herts v Southgate 14:00