Hockey: Reading must cope without key players

Reading, who will be defending their European Club Championship title at the end of the month in Barcelona, have fixtures today and tomorrow against an England B squad at Sonning Lane.

Reading, who will be defending their European Club Championship title at the end of the month in Barcelona, have fixtures today and tomorrow against an England B squad at Sonning Lane.

Missing will be the influential New Zealand captain, Simon Towns, who will unavailable for Barcelona because of his country's Olympic preparations, and the Germany striker Justus Scharowsky, who has returned to his homeland after studying at Oxford.

Not far away at Bisham Abbey, Slough Ladies will be going through their preparations under their new stand-in coach, Jon Royce, following the sudden departure of Lesley Hobley, with games against England Under 21 at 3.30pm this afternoon and 2.30pm tomorrow.

Up at Beeston HC's excellent facilities at Highfields, Nottingham, there will be hockey with a difference at the second annual National Youth Festival. Twenty-two-year-old Warwick University student Mindy Dhanda and his Committee have organised a full programme for both days. Tomorrow's event will finish at 4.30pm with the England Under-21 side playing an All-Stars XI.

The centrepiece of the Festival tomorrow is the final stages of the National Mini championship, now in its ninth year for boys and girls divided into under-11 and under-13 sections. With an original entry of over 12,000 teams, the last 20 will be on parade at Nottingham. The theme of this year's Festival is Junior Club Development and has been designated as a charity event in support of the NSPCC Full Stop campaign.

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