Winchester Mens's 2nd XI 4, Gillingham 1st XI 3
Winchester recovered well from a two goal deficit to start their Hants/Surrey Div 2 league campaign with a fine win and a hatrick from Stuart Swift to savour.
Promoted Gillingham only dropped eight points in their Hants Div 1 champions season and they played with that winning momentum through the majority the game. After a promising opening salve from Winchester, during which England U16 player Rory Penrose crashed one against the bar, club legend, keeper Ally Birch, returning after twelve months of injury, was called upon numerous times to save the day. Winchester then went ahead when Rob Craddock's pin-point crashed ball from the left wing found a diving Stuart Swift at the back post. Gillingham broke back immediately, deflecting home from a left wing cross.
With both teams effectively counter attacking, the game was very stretched with many chances for both sides. Gillingham struck next after a goalmouth melee. They then increased their lead five minutes into the second half, putting pressure on the Winchester defenders with a towering aerial and pouncing on the free ball.
Sensing they were not worth the defeat that was staring them in the face, the Winchester midfield and forwards came alive and started to dominate play. Penalty corners ensued as the pressure on Gillingham built. Ed Player's slide to Matt Stokes was forced over the line by the Solent University student. This was repeated with ten minutes remaining with a Player slip back to Swift to slap home at the near post. Winchester's effort paid off with two minutes to go when a penalty stroke was awarded after a full-on period of Winchester pressure. Swift swept home for his hatrick and Winchester's win.