Romsey Men’s 1st XI 4 – 0 Bank of England Men’s 1st XI

An away game against the side lying second in the table at the start of the day appeared a tough fixture for Romsey but they made light of the respective league positions to record an impressive victory. The result completed a season double over the London side and also secured Romsey their first back-to-back wins of the campaign to significantly boost their hopes of remaining in Hants/Surrey Div. 2 next year.

Early on the Bank settled into a defensive half court press which allowed Romsey to dominate both territory and possession, with the visitors showing the necessary patience to regularly switch the point of attack by quickly moving the ball between the back three. After ten minutes Romsey’s superiority was rewarded from a penalty corner as the goalkeeper denied Jack Forrest-Charde’s dragflick but could do nothing about Ben Mullan’s sweep shot on the rebound.

Lewis Birch : Arch Poacher !

Lewis Birch : Arch Poacher !

This seemed to spark the Bank into a more positive approach and for a while the visitors were squeezed back, defending against the barrage of hits fired towards their area. Inevitably some of these found an attacking stick, yet the home side struggled to fashion chances in open play and were generally restricted to a few penalty corner routines in the first half.

Romsey’s second goal came when Forrest-Charde showed good awareness in seizing upon the award of a free hit to take a self pass before the defence had got in position. His shot on the run whilst crossing the top of the area was somewhat scuffed but it worked out perfectly as an assist thanks the run of Lewis Birch who beat both a defender and the GK to the ball and lifted a deflection into the net.

The game evened out with both sides looking to use the wonderfully flat and smooth pitch to play through balls to the forwards, and the youthful Romsey attack in particular enjoyed exploiting their speed advantage to open up the Bank defence. Ben Butcher almost set up a brilliant play from left back when he fired a defence splitting pass that was unfortunately just beyond the reach of Mullan’s forward run.

The lead was further extended when Neil Strong received the ball with his back to goal outside the 23 yard line and played an intelligent ball around the corner to meet the run of Birch down the right. The winger drove into the area and showed the necessary clinical decision making to commit the keeper before squaring the ball for Mullan to convert his second of the day.

A stunned Bank side regrouped at the break and put Romsey under huge pressure at the beginning of the second half, but Lozz Scott in goal demonstrated his value to the team with a series of fine saves. The highlight came at a penalty corner where he not only made a full stretch save with his arm to keep out the straight strike but also reacted immediately to deny a rebound attempt.

The game became increasingly end-to-end and Romsey made full use of their rolling substitutions to maintain a high workrate, snuffing out Bank attacks and producing several fine counter-moves that ripped through the tiring opposition midfield. Eventually the visitors made the points safe with such an attack as Forrest-Charde drove into the area and unselfishly tried to pass to Birch who had got in position for a simple finish, but a touch from a backtracking defender diverted the ball past the wrongfooted goalkeeper and into the goal.

With time almost up defender Joe Welch appeared to be harshly treated when shown a yellow card for what the referee deemed to be a bodycheck on an opponent. This resulted in a series of penalty corners as the last play of the game but Romsey kept them out and so earned a second successive clean sheet.

With five games each remaining, the relegation battle remains tight as the bottom seven sides are separated by just seven points. Romsey host Camberley & Farnborough next week (Romsey School, 12 Noon) and will seek to atone for the disappointing display given in November’s reverse fixture which saw them soundly defeated.

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