Written by Danny Buckland.
January 11, 2014, since you’re asking. The last time Spencer were defeated there was a different government and Pharrell Williams was still Happy at No. 1.
But Hillcroft disrupted the relentless stream of Earlsfield Ws by doing what they’ve threatened to do for sometime and their 8-6 triumph is not as seismic as it seems.
The Tooting titans have been working long and hard to get to a position to challenge for Premiership glory and this marks them down as genuine contenders.
Zak Jordan grabbed a hat-trick and skipper Eoin Dunne notched the crucial go-ahead goal to provide daylight but the success was built on a rock-solid defensive performance in front of Man of the Match Matt O’Leary who was a wall between the pipes.
“It was a fantastic result and shows we mean to strongly challenge for the title this season,” said Dunne. “It was a great game of lacrosse from both teams in less than ideal weather conditions. As always we expected this to be our toughest game so far and Spencer did not disappoint.”
It was a tight, tactical game throughout and little separated them with Spencer edging it 3-2 at half-time.
Zak Jordan struck with two quick goals after the re-start then Duncan Trenholme and Brian Potter helped Hillcroft to a 6-4 advantage going into the final quarter.
Spencer scored two on the bounce to level a compelling game before Dunne and Jordan completed the memorable victory.
“I can’t credit the entire team enough with the effort and play they put in during the 3rd and 4th quarters,” added Dunne “We managed to close it out in the final minutes playing some extremely composed possession lacrosse.
“Credit again has to go to our defence who managed to keep the potent Spencer attack to just 6 goals, Mathew O’Leary in goal was absolutely outstanding with a man of the match performance.”
Spencer co-captain Joe Darkins was generous in defeat, saying: “Our unbeaten run was always going to end at some point and full credit to Hillcroft for coming to Spencer and taking the victory.
“They were very organised and held possession well throughout the game. We never really got into our stride, had a few injuries and were not clinical in front of goal. It’s a long season and we’re looking forward to the next game.”
The stagger is still to unwind in the league positions and Hillcroft are carrying a first game loss to Reading so Spencer can exhale and the Croft know they will probably have to repeat the performance in the return fixture on February 13.
Meanwhile, Hampstead are purring along in expansive form, beating contenders Blues 17-13 in a fast-paced game at the Westway. The Men in Black are a potent threat in both league and Flags.
Blues were without face-off supremo Matt Birkett and injured middie Ryan Walker and by half time the home team had established a clear 8-4 lead. But Blues dug deep to fire back with five goals and claw their way into the game.
Stuart McGregor Dallas had a busy day and, despite his heroics, 18-man Hampstead stayed comfortably in front for the rest of the high tempo game.
“Stuart was very good in nets but we just had too much firepower,” said Hampstead’s Dennis Tobin. “They had injuries and we know they will be stronger in the return fixture.”
McGregor Dallas added: “Injuries and absences are hurting us and it has not been our strongest start to a season but Hampstead are formidable with a great strike force. They will take some beating with their depth and experience.”
East Grinstead maintained their excellent start to the season with a 12-6 win over Bristol Bombers that was helped by a racing start as they scored five unanswered goals in the first ten minutes.
“We went out strong and put away 5 goals in the first quarter which put us in a comfortable position for the remainder of the game,” said skipper Andy Price. “We probably didn’t play quite to level we did in previous weeks and credit to Bristol who kept themselves in it by coming up with some nicely worked goals. Overall it was a solid team performance and one which we will need for a tough away fixture in Cardiff in a couple of weeks.”
Bristol captain Pete Wilson added: “It was a disappointing score line for us and we took a long time to switch on after the drive up. We started to rev up once we’d got on the score sheet but we just couldn’t catch up.
“EG would counter one of our goals with a goal of their own and they were really picking corners with some impressive shots off the drives.
“We produced some good offense play but struggled to get many past keeper Andy Price who had a great game reading low shots perfectly.”
Ben Western got four goals from the Bombers’ midfield while Kyle McHugh continued his scoring form with a brace.
Reading stay top with a 16-8 victory over Purley as they settle into their new home ground which is unlikely to flood.
Skipper Paul Miler with 5 and Ash Smith with 4 lead the way but there are signs that Purely are turning a corner as the new players start to gel.
“It was good and competitive despite the final score,” said Milner. “We built an early lead and had a lot of the ball but couldn’t capitalise on the chances we were creating and this allowed Purley to keep in touch throughout the first half getting to within a goal at one point. As the game progressed we managed to pull ahead and extend our lead.
“Purley looked to be a very different team to last year and I’m sure they’ll get better and better as the season continues.”
Hitchin grabbed a crucial 9-8 win against Cardiff at Lucas Lane with Rhod Stanford getting the winner against his old club.
The teams are in Flags action this Saturday with Hampstead travelling to Cardiff and Hitchin making the trip to Blues. Purley have the unenvied job of facing a sore Spencer at Earlsfield and EG are already into the semis as their Bristol game was a double-header.
East Grinstead 12 – 6 Bristol Bombers
Hampstead 17 – 13 Blues
Hitchin 10 – 9 Cardiff
Reading 16 – 8 Purley
Cardiff v Hampstead
Spencer v Purley
Blues v Hitchin