Hockey: Havant deprived of Baker

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The Independent Online
THE visit of third-placed Havant, last year's champions, to Clifton College for tomorrow's First Division PizzaExpress National League game against Firebrands is unlikely to influence the destiny of this season's title. Hounslow, barring the unexpected, have already done enough to settle that, but it is likely to highlight how much Havant have missed Rob Hill, their top goalscorer last season, who will be lining up for the Bristol-based club against them.

Both sides expect to be at full strength except for Havant's Steve Baker, who gave such an impressive display last Sunday. Baker is at the England Under-18 training weekend at Bisham. Several clubs will be missing their youth players. Hounslow, entertaining Welton, will be without Guy Fordham while Bromley, away at Surbiton, will be missing the left-winger Tom Spindlow. Their recent signing, Stephen Haines, is likely to deputise.

Southgate, in second place three points behind Hounslow, are at full strength away to Slough, where the home side will be handicapped by the absence of two of their teenage stars, Simon Archer and Jon Axworthy. If clubs are to be encouraged to give youth a chance then hockey's administrators must ensure that the players are not caught up in a club v country conflict of loyalties.

In the Second Division, Reading can be expected to march on in Exeter against Isca, where their captain, Paddy Osborn, could be the first to reach 100 National League goals - he needs just one more.

At the bottom Chelmsford, away at Harleston Magpies, are still awaiting the arrival of their mid-season signings, the Indian internationals Gundeep Kumar and Balwinder Singh, in their efforts to hold on to their National League status. Their indian summer seems a long way off.