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Holcombe Women secure Premier Division return with 3-1 home win over Wimbledon 2nds; Holcombe men’s side see off Beeston 5-2

By Lucas Ball

Holcombe secured a return to Premier Division hockey at the first attempt as Nick Bandurak’s side beat Wimbledon 2nds 3-1 at Holcombe Park courtesy of Leisa Randall’s brace and a Phoebe Steele goal on Saturday.

With promotion following on from Holcombe’s Super 6s Division 1 triumph in January, the club are now one of just two teams in the country to support two first-teams who play Premier Division hockey in the indoor and outdoor set-up.

Holcombe Women celebrate securing their swift Premier Division return after victory over Wimbledon 2nds at the weekend
Holcombe Women celebrate securing their swift Premier Division return after victory over Wimbledon 2nds at the weekend

Bandurak’s team also became the first outfit – men’s or women’s – to make an immediate return to the top-flight since Buckingham.

Randall’s first-quarter goal calmed the nerves slightly, with Holcombe knowing a win made other results irrelevant as Barnes, even if they beat champions Surbiton 2nds – which they did – could not catch Holcs.

It was two before half-time as Randall doubled her and Holcombe’s tally with her seventh goal of the season before Steele added her 13th of the campaign shortly after half-time.

The visitors pulled a goal back with seven minutes to go through a Petra Barr penalty stroke but Holcombe comfortably held on for promotion to kick-start the party.

Deanna Ritchie had already forced a save from Katherine Don-Wauchope with a close-range snapshot before the opening goal. Lottie Bingham drove through the heart of the Wimbledon defence and found Tilly Tillings, the forward unselfishly passing across goal for Randall to tap home.

The game was temporarily halted in the second quarter due to hail before play restarted with around 11 minutes to go in the second period, Randall adding her second five minutes later with the slightest of deflections past Don-Wauchope from Emma Bandurak’s hit.

Two minutes later, it could have been three. Bingham was again involved as she found Marian Ledesma in the circle who played the ball across goal, Ritchie deflecting just wide.

Tillings saw two chances come her way in the space of a couple of minutes as she forced another good save from Don-Wauchope on the reverse before seeing a close-range effort kept out having been played through by Ritchie.

Steele converted from a penalty corner less than four minutes into the second half to finally put the game beyond doubt before an end-to-end spell in an exciting third quarter.

First, Tilly Woodhead did brilliantly to clear with a Wimbledon forward rushing into the circle as Hannah Bond slid an effort just wide.

It was then Woodhead in action again. She made two brilliant saves in the space of two minutes to keep Holcombe’s clean sheet intact.

Bandurak almost added a fourth from a penalty corner as Don-Wauchope made a good save following a deflection off the foot of the number one runner before the re-award was flicked wide.

Holcombe could have added to their tally in the fourth quarter as another penalty corner was well-defended before Ritchie hit a reverse just wide.

Catherine Ledesma then forced a good save on the reverse from Don-Wauchope while Ritchie tried to lob the goalkeeper from the rebound and was denied by a good stop.

Woodhead made another good save from a hit but had little chance with a penalty stroke less than 60 seconds later after Bandurak made a foul in the circle.

Barr stepped up and converted to reduce the arrears as a few nerves crept in for Holcombe, knowing they would be down to 10 players for five of the last seven minutes after Bandurak was given a yellow card.

But Holcombe kept the ball well for large spells to eat up the clock in the final minutes and held on to win by two goals in front of a jubilant terrace, sparking scenes of celebration on and off the pitch.

Holcombe were promoted to the Super 6s Premier Division alongside Sutton Coldfield who will also join them in the Premier Division for outdoor hockey next season after they won Division 1 North.

* A fast start from Holcombe earned Barry Middleton’s men a first win of Phase Three of their Premier Division season as they beat Beeston 5-2.

Returning captain Nick Bandurak scored after just three minutes in his first Holcs appearance since November, with Tim Guise-Brown doubling the advantage just four minutes later.

Bandurak added another midway through the third quarter before four goals game in an exciting final period, Tom Russell and Alex Pendle both scoring late on.

The victory leaves Holcombe second in Pool A, needing a top-two finish to secure a spot at League Finals weekend. Middleton’s side are three points behind Old Georgians who have won both Phase Three matches and ahead of Hampstead & Westminster on goal difference.

Holcs travel to Old Georgians on the final day in two weekends’ time, likely needing a first win against the perennial champions since 2020 to secure a berth at the end-of-season showcase event and have a chance at qualifying for next season’s Euro Hockey League.

Bandurak got the scoring under way with a powerful finish from close-range early on before Guise-Brown doubled the lead with an incredible drag-flick minutes later.

The fast start could have seen Holcombe score more, too, as Pendle was denied by Taylor Craigie from close-range inside the opening quarter.

Henry Croft started to cause Holcs some problems in the second period and hit a powerful shot off-target before forcing Ollie Payne into a good save but it was the hosts who ended the half more strongly, Craigie denying Bandurak from a penalty corner.

Bandurak’s second goal was special, taking the ball down and unleashing an upright backhand half-volley into the far corner to leave Craigie with no chance.

With around nine minutes to play, Craigie upended a Holcombe player in the circle to give away a penalty stroke which Bandurak bruised the crossbar with before Russell added a fourth and his 13th outdoor goal of the season, finishing past Craigie after Bandurak launched a mammoth cross-field aerial.

Beeston pulled one back from a penalty corner with four minutes to go but the scoring wasn’t over.

Pendle finished from close range on 68 minutes from Russell’s cross to restore Holcombe’s four-goal advantage while Croft scored Beeston’s second as the game enjoyed a crazy ending.

With a week off now for Easter, Holcombe travel to St George’s College on Saturday, April 6, to face Old Georgians.

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