Hockey: Roberts back to bolster Havant

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THE weekend's PizzaExpress National League programme has been decimated with the postponement of six fixtures because of the absence of Welsh and Scottish players, on duty with their national sides in Switzerland for the Intercontinental Cup qualifier, which starts on Monday.

Last season's champions, Havant, travel to Bromley today for one of only four First Division fixtures remaining over the weekend, desperate to put behind them their disappointing form in the opening game of the season when they lost comprehensively to Southgate. Havant will have David Roberts back in defence, following the temporary suspension the club gave him after a yellow card incident in the English Club Champions Trophy game at East Grinstead.

In the day's only other National League game, Southgate entertain Trojans who will be hoping that the presence of Australian international Andrew Deane in their attack will give them their first points of the season.

The biggest crowd in tomorrow's League programme is almost certainly going to be at Highfields, Nottingham, when newly promoted Beeston play Indian Gymkhana, relegated from the First last season but now reinforced by three Indian internationals - Dahnraj Pillay, Jude Felix and goalkeeper Mark Patterson - and the return of Kulbir Bhaura.

It will be a tough assignment for Beeston's young side (now coached by Keith Taylor, who has moved from Welton) who, although losing 2-1 away to Guildford last week, impressed local supporters with their fighting qualities and nearly forced a late equaliser.

Sue Lawrie, Ealing's Scottish international captain, returns to lead her side against Slough at Barclays Bank Sports ground in today's top women's National League fixture. In addition to the return of their goalkeeper, Ealing will be strengthened by the inclusion in the squad of New Zealand's Olympic defender, Trudy Kilkolly, who is likely to play in midfield.

Champions Slough make the short trip to West London with doubts about the fitness of their prolific goalscorer, Leslie Hobley, who has been suffering from a virus infection since their 2-0 win at home to Doncaster two weeks ago.

The Welsh Hockey Association yesterday instructed its clubs and umpires that with immediate effect penalty corners should be taken at a specific spot 10 yards from the goal post - a simple solution to limit danger first suggested in the Independent of 1 October.