CHAMPIONS Beeston face rivals Canterbury as the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League Premier Division gets off to a thrilling start on Saturday.
Fifth last season, Canterbury are aiming to step up into the play-off zone this term, and have signed a trio of foreign stars to help them make that jump with French international defender Stephane Panigoni, French goalkeeper Edgar Reynaud and Spanish defender Juan Martinez Penalver all making the move.
Beeston have also signed some internationals with Scotland goalkeeper Jamie Cachia and England Under-21 James Gall moving from Sheffield Hallam and Surbiton respectively, but they have lost England and GB goalkeeper George Pinner to Holcombe.
“Pre-season started early this year because people were keen to keep the momentum after the success last year,” said Beeston skipper Adam Dixon.
“We’ve kept ticking over and it has gone well. It’s all about Canterbury at home in the first game, though. As long as we have everyone fit which was a problem last year, we’ll be there or thereabouts come playoffs.”
Elsewhere, Surbiton play host to Reading in a repeat of their dramatic clash at Finals weekend last season.
Surbiton edged to victory in a shoot-out after the sides were level at 1-1 after 70 minutes, and Reading will be aiming to start with a win after what, by their standards, was a disappointing season in 2013-14.
Having lost three of their England and GB stars in Nick Catlin, James Bailey and Darren Cheesman, Reading’s new players include Canadian Under-21 international Kevin Pereira.
In other Premier Division match ups last season’s runners-up East Grinstead – who topped the table after the regular season 18 matches – head to Cannock on Saturday evening.
And NOW: Pensions Conference North champions Brooklands Manchester University face NOW: Pensions Conference East winners Southgate in a clash of the newcomers to the top flight.
Finally, Hampstead and Westminster take on Wimbledon at Paddington Rec.
NOW: Pensions Conference West champions Cardiff & Met – who missed out on promotion in the play-offs last term – host newcomers Whitchurch in their opening match, while in the NOW: Pensions Conference North runners-up Bowdon play host to Wakefield.
After missing out on a place in the promotion play-offs by the narrowest of margins, Holcombe – who have signed several top names in their quest for the Premier Division – host Old Loughtonians in the NOW: Pensions Conference East.
NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League
Saturday, September 13 2014
NOW: Pensions Men’s Conference West
Cheltenham v Team Bath Buccaneers 12:30
Cardiff & Met v Whitchurch 13:00
Fareham v Barford Tigers 13:30
Guildford v University of Birmingham 14:00
University of Exeter v Indian Gymkhana 14:00
NOW: Pensions Men’s Conference North
Bowdon v Wakefield 11:45
Olton & West Warwicks v Deeside Ramblers 13:30
Doncaster v Loughborough Students 14:00
University of Durham v Belper 14:00
Sheffield Hallam v Leek 18:30
Sunday 14 September
NOW: Pensions Men’s Conference East
West Herts v Cambridge City 14:00