Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Reading face crunch weekend in battle for Premier hockey survival

Reading Hockey Club aiming to stave off relegation PIC: Reading HC

Reading HC are hoping for a bumper #watchyour1s crowd to lift the club as the men set themselves for a crucial Premier Division weekend. Only this time it’s a survival one.

In the penultimate round of league fixtures, bottom side Reading are four points behind second bottom Brooklands Manchester University and face their basement rivals at Sonning Lane for a 2pm Sunday pushback with nothing less than a win the focus of attention.

Since the inception of the National League, Reading have been ever-present – six-time winners, and seven-time runners up – and last won in the 2011/12 season, but relegation is all too rare. Yet, with one win in 16 this term, Reading still hold lofty ambitions of making it back to the top and playing in Europe, making Sunday’s match an extra dose of pressure.

Tim Hamilton, Reading’s Performance Squads manager, told The Hockey Paper: “It is difficult to underestimate the importance of the fixture to the team and to the club. With a proud history boasting numerous league titles and regular EHL qualification, our current plight is a long way from where we aspire to be. We remain the only English side to have won an EHL medal, and our ambition is to repeat that feat in the near future.

“As such Premier League survival is a crucial step. The squad are acutely aware that we have run out of road and we have absolutely no margin for error.”

Reading will have 10 colts matches, an under-18s Cup quarter-final and an over-60s Cup semi-final against Indian Gymkhana and are expecting a “raucous atmosphere” against Brooklands.

Reading lost several key players to rival clubs pre-season which made for a difficult season for Jason Lee’s and Danny Newcombe’s side.

“Losing key talents over recent seasons has undoubtedly made for a challenging season, but we still have a fantastic, tight-knit squad that have the capability to compete with the best in the league,” added Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Hampstead & Westminster, Wimbledon and Old Georgians are still jockeying for final play-off places. There are four points between the three clubs, with H&W holding the keys to a home play-off berth alongside Surbiton, who qualified at Christmas.

In the Investec Women’s Premier Division, it is incredibly tight at the bottom, with four clubs on 17 points (Uni of Birmingham, Clifton, Holcombe and Loughborough) who are all in relegation play-off territory, with Beeston one point ahead. Just to underline the tight cluster, Beeston are also in contention for a play-off berth, although Buckingham hold the cards with two matches remaining.

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