Belper Hockey Club’s Mens first team began their 2016/17 campaign in the Midlands Premier division in style with a heavy victory over North Birmingham-based Barford Tigers.
A rigorous pre-season fitness campaign spearheaded by new player/coach and captain Ashley Blakemore, coupled with a big player recruitment drive over the summer set a high-standard for the season ahead as the club aim to earn promotion back into the National League.
The team lined up for push back, looking hungry. The ball was fizzed around the Belper turf at pace with some short, sharp passing and intelligent ball retention; sending a message to Barford that they were in for a tough day.
And it didn’t take long before Sam Dixon found space down the right channel, who then pulled the ball back for Chris Beastall poised at the top of the D for a strike at goal which Luke Davies deflected past a flailing Barford keeper to open the scoring.
Ross Duncan doubled the lead after Davies had set him up.
With Belper almost entirely dominating proceedings the home side went for the kill with Blakemore making the score 3-0 ten minutes before half-time when he slotted home a well-placed slap-pass from a Davies short corner.
Barford did have some moments of success in the Belper half, partly due to the home side switching off for a short period but this pressure didn’t amount to anything as the defensive unit of George Minion, Blakemore, new signing Richard Yianni and Matthias Porridge stood firm.
The back line was underpinned by keeper Chris Burton who pulled off some fine saves.
With confidence stemming from the defensive line through to the rest of the team made it 4-0 when magician Joshua Dixon fed a through ball to Beastall, which he cooly struck hard and low past Barford’s keeper.
The home side continued to press with each man working hard for their fellow team mate and the work-rate was rewarded mid-way through the second half when Mandeep Soar darted into the opposition’s D to make it 5-0.
It was six just before full-time when Sam Dixon scored with a fine finish.
A delighted Ashley Blakemore said: “I’m proud of my team today, they showed tremendous discipline and really worked as a cohesive unit, defending from the front. Six goals and a clean sheet, I’m happy but it should have been more.”