Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Men’s preview: Old Georgians ready for Wimbledon tussle at the top

England Hockey Men's Premier Division previews

Wimbledon’s summer recruitment is like the Surbiton of five years ago, according to Old Georgians’ coach Mike Hughes.

Old Georgians travel to Wimbledon for a Men’s Premier Division top of the table clash on Saturday night, with both clubs in buoyant form after five successive wins each. 

The Surrey side, currently top, will welcome back four Celts from World Cup qualifying, including key man Kyle Marshall in the back lines, while Hughes admits that Wimbledon’s defence will be hard to break down on Saturday.

“Carl [Stagno, Wimbledon coach] has recruited well and it reminds me of Surbiton five years ago, where they have some really good youngsters who have come in and have a point to prove,” said Hughes.

“They have strengthened their back line with Sam Hooper while Eddie Way is still there.

“It will be a good test for us. All our pre-season games are absolute belters against them and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Old Georgians, who have only shipped two goals in five games, had six players missing in their 6-0 win over Durham University last time out and have blooded two under-18 players this season. Meanwhile, Chris Griffiths is due back in the next few weeks, while Sam Ward could be out for between four to six months.

“That was a big game for us to see where we were as a squad,” added Hughes. “They came in and played superbly. It was a potential banana skin but the leadership group stepped up, and Dan Shingles and Ashley Jackson got the tone right in training.”

The win over Durham also saw another nasty injury sustained by an opposition player and Hughes praised their physio Natalie Turner for “an absolutely superb job twice for us now”.

The incident occurred when Durham’s Raunaq Rai accidentally clashed with OGs’ Liam Sanford at a penalty corner. Rai was taken to hospital after a lengthy delay and has thankfully recovered well.

“Natalie was on hand alongside the East Grinstead physio and hats off to her on Sunday,” said Hughes. “She was straight on the pitch and had done her training on back injuries and we are very lucky as a club to have someone as well qualified as Natalie to look after us and others.

“It seemed a strange injury. We are super supportive of Liam and the line he ran was a safe one and unfortunately the follow through caught him.”

Meanwhile, second-placed Surbiton will look to dent their London rivals’ hopes, however, as they face bottom-side University of Exeter.

The west country side have yet to pick up a point after a luckless start to the season, along with East Grinstead, who cross counties to Kent and take on Holcombe.

Meanwhile, Beeston will aim to make it two wins on the bounce when they travel to University of Durham. 

Brooklands MU are also at home and host Hampstead & Westminster on Sunday afternoon. A win will keep them in the hunt for a top six place with five games remaining before the Christmas break.

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