Brooker bags the winner as Banbury take the honours

Banbury's George Brooker, who bagged the winner, gets in a shot against West Hampstead
Banbury's George Brooker, who bagged the winner, gets in a shot against West Hampstead

George Brooker bagged the winner as Banbury got their South Premier Hockey League off to a winning start.

Banbury emerged 3-2 victors from their opening division two clash with West Hampstead.

With a home squad of only 14, replacement options were limited and some players had tough shifts in an outing against strong opponents. But they got off a promising start with crisp passing around the field culminating in a break down the right for Barney Williams to score from close range after only eight minutes.

The home side were unable to convert possession into more goals despite strong performances through midfield by Brooker, Matt Bull and Steve O’Connor and tireless forward running from Simon Boardman and Max Grosmith. With halftime approaching, the Banbury midfield conceded possession and West Hampstead pounced on the weakness for visitor Benji Knights Johnson to level.

A strong start to the second half saw Williams forcing down the right hand side to centre and find Boardman who slammed home from short range. But lapses of concentration and discipline disrupted Banbury’s second half performance as they conceded several penalty corners.

New goal keeper Fergus Dunleavy continued his good pre-season form but eventually could only parry a visitors drag-flick for Chris Todd who netted from the rebound.

Second half ill-discipline continued from the home side with five different players picking up cards. Despite the enforced changes to formation, Banbury continued to pressure the visitors with a great performance from Tyson Nunnleley and an electrifying break down the right by Jonnie Stirrup who outstripped the rest of the team before finding himself surrounded by defenders and dispossessed.

In a rare period with 11 players on the pitch, the home side burst forward for Brooker to score from close range and regain the lead. In the final ten minutes Banbury had to hold on with reduced numbers against very determined West Hampstead pressure.