Blues continue to keep the pressure on a charging Spencer team that is just seven goals short of the century mark in just six games.
The Banstead boys returned from a tough trip to Hitchin with a 9-4 win and a clear indication that they are relishing the fight and have the firepower to preserve their title.
The two teams are locked at the top of SEMLA with 100% records with their long awaited D-Day clash scheduled for November 29.
Blues’ face-off supremo Matt Birkett had an easier day than expected with Rhod Stanford forced into duties between the pipes for the Hertfordshire side, which responded well to depleted availability.
Birkett’s dominance ensured possession but it was a while before Blues translated that into goals.
“We started with a strong 10 minutes of possession but, despite producing several good looks, we just couldn’t put the ball away which allowed Hitchin to catch us napping and go 2-0 up in the first quarter,” said skipper Dave Cluney. “But we got goals direct from the face off and Hitchin faded in the final quarter without Rhod in midfield and Wavey up front.”
Hitchin could only field 11 players because of holidays and domestic emergencies but skipper Stanford said: “We were actually fairly happy with the result as we had a heavily depleted team and it is always going to be tricky with six first teamers missing.
“Our defence played really well again as a unit, helping to limit the shots I had to face. They were sliding well as a unit forcing Blues strong midfield dodgers to redirect the ball and making them look for the 3rd and 4th pass before getting a look on goal. As expected the Blues offence was patient and efficient holding the ball for long periods of time.”
Hillcroft returned to form after their disappointing visit to Spencer last week with a morale-boosting 10-1 win over Bristol Bombers.
Their gathering strength in depth was evident with 2s players Chris Abplanalp and Jeff Blaylock stepping up and performing well at Prem level.
“We needed to step it up after the Spencer result and had improved performances from all players, which in the end lead to a comfortable win,” said captain Eoin Dunne. “Our defence was superb. Allowing just 1 goal in 80 minutes is a credit to their individual concentration and skill levels and something we build our game around.
“But credit to Bristol who battled all game and never gave up, they look to be a well organised and committed unit.”
Hillcroft entertain Hampstead in the Flags Round 2 on Saturday in what could be one of the season thrillers.
The Men in Black had to concede their game against Welwyn but are Flags specialists.
Bristol drew a lot of comfort for their intense effort and how they maintained cohesion whilst chasing the game.
“We had a depleted squad but came off the pitch pretty happy despite the loss,” said defender Silas Voelcker-Benson. “Hillcroft played a very different attacking game than we were used to, but the defence adapted to it well and we didn’t give them any easy goals. Unfortunately they managed to retain what felt like upwards of 70% possession – through a combination of a great face-off unit and having more legs than us when it came to ground balls. When we did have the ball, it was pretty much a case of giving our D a break, and having a long pole in an offensive line half the time is always going to limit attacking capability. “Hopefully we’ll be a bit closer to them in the return fixture, but they are going to be a very strong side, whoever we put out.”
Bristol now have back-to-back games v Spencer, traveling up to London again for the Flags tie before hosting the league fixture.
They will find Spencer in prime form, off the back of a 22-2 win over a weakened East Grinstead. Their American ex-college players Eddie Vita and Craig Loeber doing the bulk of the damage with five goals each while Rob Holmes blasted in four.
“Full credit to East Grinstead who turned up with 10 players and impressively kept us honest for the full 80 minutes. Testament to this is that their 2 goals came in the last quarter,” said co-captain Tom Leahy.
“Will Walker shone with some clinical outside shooting and ex EG man Ed Shee christened our new goals with a sweetly placed lefty top corner on the run to set off the scoring.”
Purley again came close, going down 6-9 at home to Reading Wilcats who celebrated a hat-trick performance in attack from 17-year-old Stephen Munck, who deputized for skipper Paul Milner.
“We prevailed in a hard fought away game at Purley,” said Rob Day, who also scored three. “We got off to an early lead, but individual penalties cost us through good man-up play from Purley. Stephen really impressed up front with his play and three goals”.
Hillcroft 10 – 1 Bristol Bombers
Hitchin 4 – 9 Blues
Purley 6 – 9 Reading
Spencer v East Grinstead
Welwyn 10 – 0 Hampstead
FIXTURES – FLAGS ROUND 2
Hillcroft v Hampstead
Purley v Blues
Spencer v Bristol Bombers
Welwyn v Reading