Spencer’s relentless march to the title continues but they were given a tough test by a spirited Reading Wildcats.
The Earlsfield machine wasn’t at its smoothest and had to go to the graft as much as the craft to squeeze a 14-8 victory which keeps them ahead of Blues who had an easier run in the 20-3 demolition of Purley.
A miserly scoreline emerged from Tooting where the home team failed to live up to their Thrillcroft tag line and went down 3-4 to Hitchin in a defence dominated encounter.
Hampstead continued their resurgence with an 8-4 win over East Grinstead and Bristol made it a hat-trick of one goal wins with an 8-7 over visiting Welwyn which shunts them out of the drop zone.
Reading’s keeper was the busier at Fieldview and performed heroics at times as the Wildcats matched Spencer for three-quarters before running out of gas.
“They are a well drilled team and are quick to take on a dodge and feed the crease,” said co captain Tom Leahy. “Their improvement from last time took us by surprise and, with a slightly depleted squad on our side, the first hour was a very good contest. This was helped in no small part by a stand out performance from their keeper who must have made ten 1-on-1 saves.
“From our perspective it was great to play in a highly competitive encounter and is just the preparation we need going in to the tail end of a big season for us.
“In the last quarter we found our rhythm and we were pleased to take the game away from Reading with 6 goals.”
Hitchin used guile to thwart Hillcroft but skipper Rhod Stanford believes his team was fortunate to leave with a win. “The only way I can describe it is an utter smash and grab,” he said. “I don’t think we had a right to win that game with the squad we took.”
They arrived with 11 and when a second player got injured the first had to limp back on to make up the numbers. But the Hertfordshire team were clever enough to soak up some heavy Hillcroft traffic and steal the win that keeps them in the race for 3rd spot behind Spencer and Blues.
“Their defence did a good job at limiting the opportunities we had on goal and protecting their goalie from a large amount of pressure,” added Stanford. “Offensively, we didn’t move them enough, our ball movement wasn’t quick enough. We were static off ball, and at no point really did we get into a fluid offensive rhythm
“At the other end we had an excellent defensive performance, with some great saves from Hoppo.
“Hillcroft are obviously working on developing a structured offensive brand, which will be effective in the coming seasons. However in this game, I felt they lacked the experience to spot the opportunities that their sets and movement were creating.
“I like what they’re trying to build, but if they just needed to be more direct and run at us. We’d have been spent by the 3rd quarter.”
Bristol’s and Welwyn traded goals and were level going into half time in a crucial clash. The Bombers eased 7-4 clear in the third but then Welwyn punched back with Hamish Tiley proving a handful and got to within one goal before the home team held the ball to see out the final few minutes.
Purley are struggling to locate consistency and regular line-up and their woes continued as their depleted squad went down 20-3 to Blues who christened a new playing kit in style.
“We travelled with a weakened squad and were made to pay for it by an efficient Blues team who were clearly inspired by their shiny new uniforms,” said captain Dave Copple. “We didn’t play at the level we expect of ourselves and will be looking to right this over the rest of the season.”
The big guns have this week off with the only Prem action at the Westway where Hampstead line up against Bristol.
The Intermediate Flags competition takes centre stage with the divisional semis providing the major attraction this Saturday.
Spencer’s top brass will be watching their unbeaten second string take on mercurial newboys Epsom while London University play Hillcroft’s potent A team. In the West, Bath entertain Birmingham and Cardiff take on Southampton
Blues 20 – 3 Purley
Bristol 7 -6 Welwyn
Hampstead 8 – 4 East Grinstead
Hillcroft 3 – 4 Hitchin
Spencer 14 – 8 Reading
Hampstead v Bristol Bombers (1pm)
Int East SF
London v Hillcroft A
Spencer 2 v Epsom
Int West SF
Bath v Birmingham
Cardiff v Southampton