The hottest day of the year so far saw a heated affair take place on pitch 2 at Holcombe Park as Spencer were welcomed ahead of their last-16 tie with Holcombe Mixed.
With a space in the Quarter-Finals at stake, late withdrawals and injuries to the squad meant that the home side had only two substitutes in a sweltering afternoon fixture in Kent.
Spencer began the game the strongest, moving the ball around well and it took Holcombe the opening ten minutes to settle into the contest. From there, it became largely one-way traffic with Aurora Mears in the Holcombe goal performing the role of spectator as the half progressed.
A plethora of penalty corners to the home side were negated by a combination of good defensive running, smart goalkeeping and poor execution as the visitors dug deeper into their defensive half. Open play shots and set-play opportunities continued to go begging for the Kent side as the continued to camp deep within Spencer territory.
In a sense of inevitable karma for the home side, it was Spencer who actually took the lead under controversial circumstances. A penalty corner of their own against the run of play led to Tom Clarke-Knowles dribbling around Holcombe’s first runner before flicking the ball high into the chest of Emma Trunks. With Spencer’s umpire appearing to have seen nothing, play was allowed to continue and Clarke-Knowles slotted home from close range to give Spencer an unlikely lead.
Normal service resumed immediately afterward and the visitors were indebted to their goalkeeper for preserving their lead as the sides went into the break at 1-0.
The second half saw Holcombe continue to dominate proceedings and force a number of saves from the visiting goalkeeper. Spencer remained deep within their half in an attempt to provide some compact cover for their back line but Holcombe were left to rue some poor play in the final third as they failed to convert any of a number of opportunities throughout the period.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, frustrations began to surface and Spencer capitalised, again under controversial circumstances, as the game threatened to reach boiling point.
After a Holcombe attack down the right flank, the ball was pushed to safety off the side-line by Spencer’s resolute back line. With no signal being given by the Spencer umpire, one of the visiting players ran to collect the ball and fire it up the pitch to Tom Clarke-Knowles who found himself all alone in the Holcombe half as the home side rushed over to take the original free hit. Clarke-Knowles converted the opportunity for his second of the game, sparking mass protests from Holcombe but to no avail.
The home side continued to dominate proceedings and earned themselves yet another penalty corner with three minutes to go. Ian Harvey finally managed to get one round the tight running of the Spencer back-four to reduce the deficit.
From the restart, Holcombe pushed forward again and forced a turnover to win yet another penalty corner in what would prove to be the final play of the game. A well-worked move saw Harvey convert from close range to claim an improbable draw and send the contest to penalty strokes.
Holcombe, electing to go first, missed their opening two penalties as four men converted for the visitors to send them through to the Quarter Finals as the game ended in frustrating circumstances for the home side.
England Hockey Mixed National Cup
Holcombe HC 2-2 Spencer HC
(Spencer win 4-2 APS)
Scorers: Holcombe HC: Ian Harvey x2
Spencer HC: Tom Clarke-Knowles x2
Holcombe Park, Rochester
Pictures supplied by www.groutphotography.co.uk