By Danny Buckland
The basement battle is hotting up in the Prem and Purley scored a significant win over fellow strugglers Cardiff to climb off the bottom.
The 11-7 victory gives them an edge over the Welsh team and Welwyn who slipped to ninth after a 10-5 defeat by Reading. Purley have a game in hand over the other two but only a point separates them and few feel comfortable predicting how it will end up. (match report below)
Purley captain Dave Copple was delighted with the win and said: “We had a strong squad out and put in a high quality performance against a good Cardiff team. We all knew that this was going to be a big game, and we’re glad to climb off the bottom of the league. We’re hoping that we can use this to kick on and get some more wins.”
It is looking more assured for Spencer at the other end of the table, who racked up another win with a 15-4 triumph at Hitchin to maintain their undefeated record and a stranglehold at the top of the league.
They are six points clear of second place Hillcroft who lost a tough game 7-4 to Blues.
“It was a cautious game to begin with,” said Hillcroft skipper Alex Twiss. “Both teams kept possession well and created opportunities. Blues managed to convert opportunities over the first two quarters and built up a lead.
Eventually we got the goal that started our momentum and got it back to 5-3 going into the final quarter.
“But a quick goal from Blues put us in a difficult position and though we pushed hard we couldn’t get back.”
Spencer’s form makes them odds-on favourites but the sound of the ‘big black train’ is starting to be heard as Hampstead stoke up their traditional late season surge.
They defeated East Grinstead 10-4 after a long lay off and, mathematically at least, have the best chance of hunting down the leaders. On paper they have the harder run-in but just one slip from Spencer will make the final game of the season against Hampstead a humdinger.
Elsewhere, the weather took a fearful toll of the fixtures and has ignited the debate over moving to a summer fixture list.
Purley 11 – 7 Cardiff
Purley eased their relegation fears with a crucial win over fellow strugglers Cardiff in a tough encounter.
Both teams badly needed the points and the going was hard labour as they toiled through a tense game on a heavy pitch that made fluent play difficult.
Mike Barrett’s four goals were the key factor for Purley who enjoyed longer periods of possession. But Cardiff keeper James Richardson’s excellent shot-stopping and Alan Croft’s threat meant that they couldn’t pull clear till the final ten minutes.
Cardiff took the lead with a Sam King strike but Barrett equalised and then Ant Peregrine made it 2-1 with good finish only for Justin Baranowski to level it with a clever flick to wrong-foot Richardson.
The second quarter was scrappy and disjointed with both teams rushing their possessions. Paul Terry was in trademark classy form, snapping up shots cleanly and initiating attacks with laser clears.
Barrett and Baranowski got the only goals of the second quarter to make it 4-2 at half time as snow and sleet started to fall and make the game even tougher.
After half time, the home side enjoyed a purple patch with Andy Davies, Matt Payne and Guy Francis adding to the tally to make it 7-2 and a seemingly comfortable lead. But Cardiff refused to roll over and Croft hit two quick goals, first on a well-worked man-up play, and then a powerful run and shot.
Will Barrett then jinked from behind the goal and rolled round the corner to plant home another to haul the Welsh side back into it at 7-5 at the end of Q3.
The final quarter started with the goal of the game from a sweeping fast break with four first time passes, finished off by Darren Novell’s quick-stick feed to Payne to fire home.
Croft got his third to keep his team alive but Purley, with four subs to Cardiff’s one, were looking the likelier winners against the tiring Welsh side. Barrett added two more and then Matt Carey, who had injected tempo into the game with his clever running and angled passes, got a deserved goal to make it 11-6.
Chris Lee got one back with a slick move but Purley had done enough. Both teams battled hard for every ground ball and will need that spirit to stay alive in the Premiership.
“It was a very tough game that we had to win,” said Purley captain Dave Copple. It is good to get off the bottom but I was particularly pleased with the way we controlled the game well in attack and played it the way we wanted to.”
Q. Scores: 2-2 / 4-2 / 7-5 / 11-7
Purley: Mike Barrett 4, Justin Baranowski 2, Matt Payne 2, Matt Carey, Andy Davies, Guy Francis.
Cardiff: Alan Croft 3, Will Barrett, Sam King, Chris Lee, Ant Peregrine