Sheffield Hallam had no answer to the hockey superstars of Reading last weekend, as they battled hard but slipped to a 3-0 defeat.
The task doesn’t get any easier for Hallam in the NOW: Pensions Premier Division, however, as they prepare to face last season’s Premier Division Champions Beeston, who have been one of the most consistent sides at the top end of English Hockey for many years.
They will take heart from a spirited performance against Reading, however, with the visitors fielding a number of past and present international players.
“We are genuinely delighted that we have such players visiting Sheffield,” Hallam head coach Vicky Joel said.
“It is great for all the club, and a just reward for the hard work and achievement of promotion last season.
“However, we shake their hands and welcome them.
“Then, it’s time to get to work - and part of that is to stop teams having a good day out in Sheffield.”
For all their endeavour, however, Sheffield couldn’t match their opponents on Saturday despite a promising start.
They came close to taking the lead, when Sheffield’s Welsh international Gareth Furlong’s penalty corner effort was cleared off the line.
Reading responded by introducing GB players Simon Mantell and Dan Shingles, and Hallam’s ‘keeper Jamie Cachia had to be in good form to deny the visitors from their first penalty corner.
He was eventually beaten after 15 minutes, however, when Richard Mantell flicked high and gave Reading the lead.
Sheffield’s determination was never in doubt but their concentration began to dip, and Reading took full advantage to double their lead when Mantell added a second after 24 minutes.
It was a revitalised Sheffield that returned to the floodlit Abbeydale pitch for the second half and, all of a sudden, Reading had a task on their hands.
New signing Arjan Drayton-Chana was in particularly good form, and a final push in the last ten minutes saw Hallam create some good chances.
But they were vulnerable on the counter, and a counter-break goal in the final minute from Nick Catlin sealed a 3-0 win for Reading.
“We approach every game to win it,” Joel added.
“But Reading are a proven, quality outfit so this wasn’t a game we had to get three points from.
“Our performance once again proves that we are capable of competing in this league, and it is small and frustrating margins that separate us from being closer, for longer, to the top teams.”
Hallam’s women’s first team suffered a shock defeat to Longridge, who were bottom of the table without a point before their 3-1 victory.
Hallam’s only bright point was a stunning goal by Kathryn Hughes, described as the “goal of the season” so far.
They host Springfields on Saturday.