Horndean repeat the trick against Essex to go top

Marcus Russell. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133265-387)
Marcus Russell. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133265-387)
South Hants Ladies are pushing for promotion

South Hants Ladies urge for support as they push for promotion

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Horndean’s rich vein of form continued with another 3-0 drubbing of Essex Estonians.

They outclassed their opponents in straight sets to go top of the National League division two south table.

Horndean now lead the pack with 27 points – two clear of second-placed Wessex BU, who have two games in hand.

Having earlier knocked Essex out of the National Shield, the Deans were again on song as the teams clashed for the second time in successive weekends at Highbury College.

The hosts started well, sprinting into an 8-2 lead by the first technical time out.

However, a series of defensive mistakes allowed Essex to briefly recover before Horndean wrapped up the set 25-13 with great middle play from Nasser Ssemuwemba.

Both teams seemed to be evenly matched at the start of the second set, as the lead kept changing hands.

But the Deans went two points ahead at 8-6, thanks to Marcus Russell’s precise hitting and blocking.

Leandros Tsikras then unleashed a string of combination sets that were delightfully executed by Horndean’s outside attacker Haakon Lie and opposite player Damian Roberts.

The duo’s hitting performance, together with Benoit Royer’s good passing, helped the Deans claim a 25-19 second set victory.

In the third set, some brilliant back-court play from skipper Stephen Metherell helped Horndean combat the visitors who put the pressure on with off-speed play.

But it was the powerful jump serves of Tsikras that created havoc in Essex’s defence to ensure a 25-17 set win.

Player-coach Ssemuwemba, who was later named Horndean’s man-of-the-match, was cock-a-hoop after his side’s second double-header victory of the year.

He said: ‘It was a good closure for us after a hat-trick of clashes with Essex this season.

‘We were totally disappointed when we lost to them in the first round of the league.

‘But I’m now extremely delighted that we’ve managed to avenge that defeat with a double victory, which also comes on the back of the New Forest double-header triumph.

‘I want to credit all the players for our team’s fantastic start to the year.’

The Deans have not lost a match since a hat-trick of defeats to Cardiff Celts, Richmond and Essex Estonians in October.

Their winning streak in all competitions has now stretched to eight games in a row.

But that form will be put to the test when they meet defending champions Flaming Six Aces in a mouth-watering National Shield quarter-final tie on February 1.

Skipper Metherell feels it is a difficult draw for Horndean.

He said: ‘It’s a team we would have preferred to meet in the final.

‘But now that the draw has been made, we’ve just got to prepare for a game of our lives.

‘They beat us in the shield finals last year but I’m confident that we are in good shape to give them a better match this time around.’

His team-mate Russell is adamant the shield battle ahead will not distract from Horndean’s push for league glory.

He said: ‘We’re doing very well in both the shield and the league.

‘So, our aim should be to continue doing what we’re doing right now in all competitions – win.’

Horndean travel to Guildford on Sunday in the league as they bid to extend their fine run to nine matches.