Deans continue rich vein of form

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Horndean came from a set down to beat Richmond 3-1 and move to the top of National League division two south.

They reclaimed the top spot for the second time this season, after dislodging the London side from the summit in a hotly-contested match at Highbury College.

The teams are now level on points, with the Deans in the driving seat courtesy of their superior sets difference.

Horndean have simply been unstoppable ever since losing to Team Southampton way back in October, with Saturday’s victory making it eight consecutive wins in all competitions.

Player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba is targeting the title this season after going so close to glory in the league and the shield, only to miss out last term.

He said: ‘There are more tests to come for us, but it’s good to have come out of this one on top.

‘This is a very crucial period for us and we want to maintain this little winning run.

‘We know that it’s not going to be easy but we have to keep all the players focused in both the league and shield games.

‘We were the bridesmaid in both competitions last season, and it would be nice to go one better this year.’

Buoyed by the return to the fold of skipper Leandros Tsikras, the Deans looked flawless in the first phase of the opening set.

They tore Richmond’s defence to pieces with powerful middle attacks to set up a commanding 21-14 score.

But that lead soon evaporated after their defence succumbed to Richmond’s tactical serves.

Horndean were eventually edged out 27-25.

‘It was a painful set for us to lose after setting up such a big lead,’ said Tsikras.

‘We made so many individual mistakes and paid the price. That’s volleyball.’

However, the Deans turned on the style in the second set, with Haakon Lie, in particular, giving Richmond’s blockers a torrid time as the home side took the set 25-21.

Man-of-the-match Tsikras started mixing things up at the net in the third set.

He brought middle player Willard-Hans Shongue, outside-attacker Damian Roberts and opposite-player Steve Metherell into play.

And the move paid off as the trio went on to help Horndean win 25-20 and surge ahead.

Richmond responded with a combination doze of their own.

They used their middle attackers more frequently to cause the Deans problems, while still pressuring them with a series of stinging serves.

But the home team did not panic, weathering their opponents’ onslaught before catching them cold with some solid blocks to wrap up the victory 25-22.

Metherell knows the table-topping Deans will be targeted by their rivals.

‘We came into this match, knowing that a win would takes us to the top,’ he said.

‘Now that we are up there, it’s up to the rest of the teams below us to try and bring us down.

‘It’s going to be tantalising battle until the end.

‘Any of the four top teams can still win the league.

‘Hopefully we can hold tight.’

Horndean’s next encounter will be a National Shield quarter-final clash against Dartford on Saturday, January 31, at Highbury College (5.30pm).