Banbury go into Saturday’s South Premier Hockey League fixture on the back of a fifth straight success.
It may have been more of a stutter than a sprint but Banbury returned from Saturday’s division two outing with all three points after completing the double over West Hampstead with a 3-2 victory.
Banbury started strongly, in particular down the right now that the side has been strengthened with the return of Aussie Kieran Symons who combined well with Jonny Stirrup. But it was a cross-field pass from Louis Harris that found in-form Steve O’Connor whose crashed pass was deftly deflated into the roof of the net by Max Grosmith to give the visitors the lead after only five minutes. Still looking rusty following the festive break, Banbury were unable to take advantage of the early and conceded only seven minutes later when Laxman Kharan was able to finish from close range to level.
It was only some smart work from defender Matt Bull, who made a goal-line save that prevented the visitors from going into half-time a goal down.
Banbury looked to have put their game back into gear after the restart and regained the lead when Symons found Grosmith on the edge of the home D and his crashed shot flashed past an immobile home keeper.
Harry Camp earned his well-deserved man of the match keeping the home side at bay but it was an even more spectacular goal-line save by Bull that retained the lead as Banbury’s ragged performance meant they were unable to relax until the 70th minute when O’Connor swept home a parried save from a Symons’ penalty corner.
Despite the late reply, West Hampstead were not finished and stormed back as Banbury tired with Alex Stobbart scoring with one minute remaining to halve the deficit. But it was not enough and the visitors consolidated their second place in the table.
Brooker said: “I am delighted with a winning start to the second half of the campaign but we were below par on Saturday and fortunate to come away with the points. We know we have more in the tank and enough to win the league if we can realise our potential.”