Romsey Men’s 1st XI 5 – 2 Old Kingstonian Men’s 1st XI

For a second successive week a hat-trick from man of the match Lewis Birch fired Romsey to a vital win against rivals also threatened by relegation, though the team performance was rather less impressive on this occasion. With the travelling side only able to field ten players the result was rarely in doubt, but a lacklustre showing meant Romsey made hard work of what should have been a relatively straightforward victory.

The short-handed visitors understandably sat deep and looked to fashion their chances on the break, and for much of the game Romsey were too direct in attack, trying to plough through the well set OK defence rather than showing the necessary craft to keep changing the angle of attack until an opening was created.

With Romsey piling forward to the point of overcommitment, the counterattacking visitors won several penalty corners and at the first set piece skipper Dave Miles’ game was ended by a nasty hand injury. Romsey finally lifted their game and took the lead with an incisive move from a sideline hit that ended with Tom Ponsford finding Birch in the area and he deftly lifted the ball over the diving goalkeeper.

Kingstonian were denied an equaliser as David Edwards deflected a penalty corner dragflick onto the bar, with the ball rebounding in the middle of the area where a forward was allowed a free shot by some statuesque defending, but he took a big swing and fluffed the effort. Perhaps frustrated with their struggle to break the tenacious OK side down, Romsey senselessly flirted with a sin-binning on account of some poor tackling and questioning of the umpires’ decisions.

Romsey were unfortunate not to score as Edwards passed to Jack Forrest-Charde just inside the ‘D’ and his shot crashed against the base of the near post. The lead was doubled however when Neil Strong’s flicked shot rebounded off the keeper’s leg pads and Birch nutmegged a covering defender on the line after winning the race for the loose ball.

Ten minutes after the interval Romsey broke through again as a hit into the area by Forrest-Charde somehow eluded several players on both sides and arrived at striker Strong near the back post for a simple finish. The move of the game followed soon after as Romsey’s high pressing saw Birch pick off an OK pass from a 16-yard restart then pass to Ben Mullan in the circle who squared for a swept low finish by Strong.

Other teams might have crumbled following this double setback but the OK players deserve huge credit for keeping their workrate high in spite of the warm conditions and one sided match situation. Their spirited display continued and instead it was the home side who faltered, being pushed deep into their own half for several minutes, with OK gaining reward on the scoresheet as a neatly worked set of passes from a long corner beat several defenders and a touch from Scott’s stick could not keep the eventual effort on goal out.

Man of the match Lewis Birch grabs another hat trick

Man of the match Lewis Birch grabs another hat trick

Romsey hit back when Forrest-Charde drove deep into the ‘D’ and was stick tackled by the goalie, causing a penalty stroke to be awarded which Birch expertly placed high above the keeper’s head to complete his hat-trick.

The final goal of the game saw Romsey concede in somewhat unfortunate fashion as Scott saved a dragflick with his hand pad only for the ball to cannon into Edwards standing next to him and over the line for an own goal.

The other sides below Romsey in Hants/Surrey Div. 2 lost to provide something of a cushion as the abbey side face two tough fixtures to finish the league season. With significant uncertainty regarding the number of teams to be relegated however, Romsey must push for victories in both games and will need to be much sharper in next week’s visit to champions Basingstoke who wrapped up the title with a victory on Saturday.

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