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Maidenhead HC ready to make bow in curtain raiser and Cowell is keen to improve

Maidenhead captain Phil Cowell has said that getting the body used to the rigours of playing hockey again after such a prolonged break has been tough for his team.

He is one of several Maids players nursing a niggly injury ahead of their MBBO Premier Division 2 West curtain raiser at home to Reading 2nds on Saturday (11.30am push back).

There have been plenty of changes at the club since last season was brought to a premature halt by coronavirus, with Cowell taking over as captain from Chris Brown, and Great Britain and England international David Ames joining as a first team coach. The club have also made several new signings and, although Cowell admits it will take the side time to gel, he’s confident they can push for a top half finish and perhaps even compete for a play-off spot.

“The league has done really well to get it back on near enough on time,” he said. “We’ve had a fairly decent pre-season, but we’ve picked up some niggly injuries. I think that must be because we’ve been away for so long. There’s been no summer league and the body has had to get used to playing the game again.

“The squad is looking quite strong now. We’ve brought in a few new players and week on week we’ve seen a big step up from everyone in terms of fitness and players getting their touch back. I definitely feel there’s another level we can go to and hopefully that will come after a couple of league games. The intensity is always higher in league games and that will help bring the fitness on as well.

“I’ve chatted to a few of the guys and hopefully they’ll be ok for Saturday. I went for a run this morning and felt ok so fingers crossed we’ll have nearly everyone available. There are some talented players in this squad and we’ve added real quality to it as well. It’s just about getting them up to match fitness now and hopefully we’ll have a good season.”

Maids lost the last of their pre-season friendlies 6-1 at Surbiton 2nds on Saturday, but Cowell was far from dismayed with the performance. Having conceded five goals without reply in the first half they drew the second half 1-1 and it’s the side’s second half performance Cowell hopes to see replicated on Saturday.

“Surbiton 2nds are a high-quality team,” he said. “Their first team is one of the best in the country and a lot of their youngsters are pushing for a place in that side. We picked up three injuries in the first half and were beaten 5-0 but we managed to draw the second half 1-1. In the second half the boys played really well. Throughout pre-season we’ve started slowly for some reason, but we need to take that second half mentality into the whole game on Saturday and if we do that I’m sure we’ll get a result.

“I wasn’t playing because of my injury, but we think they’ll be similar to Reading 2nds.

“They will probably have some younger players, so we’ll just need to be organised and disciplined. The younger players will be keen to run around and make life difficult for you, but they’ll also have a few experienced heads in the middle of the pitch.”

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