Ipswich 0 Holcombe 3

Slazenger Men's EHL National South Ipswich 0 Holcombe 3Ipswich fell to defeat against a Holcombe side blessed with ability and international experience.

Slazenger Men's EHL

National South

Ipswich 0 Holcombe 3

Ipswich fell to defeat against a Holcombe side blessed with ability and international experience.

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Despite a score line of 3-0, Ipswich gave their high-flying opponents a tough time of it, but it was former England and Great Britain striker Dave Mathews who proved to be the difference between the two sides, scoring all three of Holcombe's goals.

Ipswich will be disappointed not to get on the score sheet, but can take great heart from a performance that was a long way from the 6-0 thrashing that Ipswich received from their opponents in October.

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“It is not very often that I am happy with a defeat, and it was very disappointing to lose, but I think we played some excellent hockey against an extremely talented team,” said Ipswich coach Iain Gall.

“The players made me proud as they did everything I asked of them. The work rate was outstanding from everyone and a draw would not have been an unfair result.”

Dave Mathews was a constant goal scoring threat for Holcombe, hardly surprising considering his past record. Four seasons ago Mathews was a professional hockey player for Amsterdam HC in Holland's 'Hoofdklasse', the best club league in the world.

It was rumoured that he was being paid 500 euros (£380) per goal, of which he scored 37 to top the Dutch scoring charts.

His first chance to open the scoring came just 30 seconds into the game, when Holcombe winger Denzil Dolley won a penalty corner, however Tony Burch made a terrific save to block the feared drag-flicker.

Ipswich recovered quickly and an excellent move involving Ivan Smith and Richard Fox almost created a goal scoring opportunity.

Mathews soon opened the scoring through his side's second penalty corner opportunity, his virtually unstoppable effort rocketing past Burch and into the roof of the net.

Ipswich immediately went on the offensive, with Phil Messent and Kier Dixon linking up well down the right before setting up Rich Stainthorpe, but the Holcombe goalkeeper made an excellent save just as the forward was about to get his shot away.

Dixon was then given the chance to prove that Mathews was not the only drag-flicker on the field after Mark Wrinch had won a penalty corner, but his scorching effort sailed fractionally wide of the post.

Just before half time, Ipswich's task was made all the more difficult, with Mathews again the protagonist. The big centre-forward received the ball at the top of the circle before unleashing a fierce reverse stick strike which again gave Burch very little chance of saving.

Much of the best play in the second half came from Ipswich, including a 14 pass move that cut through their opponents and won a penalty corner. With Holcombe expecting the shot to come from Dixon, Ipswich instead moved the ball to Smith, whose shot was well blocked by the Holcombe keeper. In fact, the goalkeeper was to deny Kier Dixon on three occasions during the game, including a breath-taking, instinctive stick save just as the ball looked to be sailing into the bottom left hand corner of the goal.

In the 60th minute, Ipswich put together another excellent attack and Phil Messent - playing his last game for Ipswich before heading out to Melbourne for the Australian hockey season - forced the ball over the line. Sadly for Messent, the goal was ruled out due to an infringement spotted by the umpire.

Holcombe had survived the Ipswich pressure and won a penalty corner in the 65th minute. Mathews stepped up to the mark and flicked his effort into the goal to secure victory for his side.

The loss means that Ipswich have been leap-frogged by both Whitchurch and Firebrands, who both secured victories at the weekend.

The side are now just two places above the relegation play-off spot, but are eight points clear of Cambridge University with only nine points to play for.

Next week sees Ipswich travel to second placed Sevenoaks, hoping to build on this excellent performance.

All of Ipswich HC would like to wish Phil Messent good luck for his Australian adventure and thank him for his efforts during the last three seasons.

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