T&T stars face playoff pressure |
May 6, 2005
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"We are almost feeling pressured," said Trinidad and Tobago hockey star and East Grinstead player/coach Kwan Browne. "We can't help but think about the worse that can happen We won the (Premier 2) league with three games to play and should have been promoted straight away.
"It won't be just and fair if all our hard work goes to waste."
From 4 p.m. today at the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England men's Premier 2 champions, East Grinstead, must overcome a final hurdle to book their place for the 2005/06 Premier 1 division.
East Grinstead play tenth-placed Premier 1 club, Teddington, in the first of a two-leg playoff clash, while Canterbury face Premier 2 runners-up, Bath Buccaneers, in the other playoff fixture from 2 p.m. All four teams meet again at the same venue tomorrow.
East Grinstead field Trinidad and Tobago internationals Dwain Quan Chan and Dillet Gilkes, as well as Browne, while Canterbury's ranks include their compatriot, Brian Garcia.
The top two teams from each division usually receive automatic promotion but the restructuring of the leagues placed their ascension in jeopardy. The English Hockey Association decided on reducing the number of competing clubs from 12 to ten in the top flight, which meant that the bottom two were relegated while ninth and tenth place entered a playoff with the Premier 2 champs and runners-up.
A fifth Trinidad and Tobago player, Solomon Eccles, was relegated with St Albans, who failed to pick up a point from 22 Premier 1 outings.
The restructuring was bad news for Garcia, as well, who never suffered the indignity of relegation in his five-year English career, which started at Guildford.
Canterbury were ordinary this season while Garcia, an exciting dribbler, has contributed just five goals from midfield. But he is confident they will overcome Buccaneers.
Their survival is crucial to Garcia's future with the club as the Notre Dame export vowed to leave if Canterbury are relegated.
Browne would find it more difficult to cut ties with the club who made the 28-year-old midfielder England's first black coach.
East Grinstead were a mid-table third division club when they recruited Browne, two years ago. A two-legged triumph over Teddington would mean their second successive promotion.
"I feel good that a team that was in division three when I joined are now pushing for a place in the premier league," said Browne. "It is good for us in the Caribbean and it is good for me personally as a coach."
Browne, who was the first overseas player to be adjudged English Player of the Year while at Canterbury, has sacrificed his attacking instincts for a holding midfield role to offset his team's offensive capabilities but still managed 23 goals this season-third highest in Premier 2.
Twenty-one of Browne's strikes came from penalty corners, which made him the best exponent of the art in the Premier 2 division.
Browne is confident his potent penalty corners and Payne's threat from open play should be too much for the Teddington defence.
"Their defence is weak and shouldn't be able to hold off Payne and (England under-21) Ashley Jackson," he said, "while we also have the advantage from penalty corners. So I think we are stronger all over the park.
"But it is like a cup final, so it is about who wants it more rather than just natural ability."
Quan Chan also plays a key role today as the young left side midfielder has the task of taming Malaysian international and Teddington star right-winger Chua Boon Huat. Boon Huat was a mid-season acquisition for Teddington and his eight goals spared them from automatic relegation.
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