New skipper hopes side get sharper
HOCKEY: ASIF Rais, the new captain of Ipswich, is relishing the challenge that lies ahead of him this season. Taking over from the experienced Simon Miller, who led the Henley Road side into Division Two of the English Hockey League, the 25-year-old Rais knows that the task will not be an easy one.
By Martin White
ASIF Rais, the new captain of Ipswich, is relishing the challenge that lies ahead of him this season.
Taking over from the experienced Simon Miller, who led the Henley Road side into Division Two of the English Hockey League, the 25-year-old Rais knows that the task will not be an easy one.
However, help will be at hand on the sidelines from Dereham's Peter Hogg, who has agreed to take over matchday duties while newcomer John Slay will assist with coaching.
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Miller, whose wife, Louise, gave birth to a baby boy last weekend, has already been supportive and Rais will be glad that his predecessor is returning to first team action tomorrow when Ipswich entertain Hounslow and Ealing at Henley Road.
"Simon has been great during the close season and it was only due to personal circumstances that he missed last week's defeat against newly-promoted Blueharts," said Rais.
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"However, we have got to play much better than we did in that game and only the likes of Paul Calver, Andy Beresford, James Hughes and Chris Palmer performed consistently well throughout.
"We are all aware that during the first half of last season we were running high on adrenalin and getting some great results early on, but the second half of the campaign proved a lot tougher.
"This season will also be hard and we must be a lot sharper than we were against Blueharts."
Rais could point to the fact that the team got held up in traffic and not able to prepare properly and were also missing midfielder Jeremy Watt with a groin injury, but he is not ready to make excuses.
"We did not perform consistently throughout the entire 70 minutes and that is what we must do in future games," he added.
Last season, Hounslow were beaten 5-3 at Henley Road in also the second game of that season, but they are likely to be a different proposition this time around.
Ipswich show a few changes to last year with striker Andy Cook and defender Ian Driver plying their trade in the second team.
Cook, who was leading scorer during the majority of his ten years at first team level, became a father last season and with his wife, Jane, playing for Ipswich Ladies on Saturdays, felt he would like one day a weekend with his family.
Said Rais: "I've had a long chat with Andy and I fully appreciate his reasons. He has been a great servant to this club and I know he would be prepared to come back in an emergency."
With James Southgate having joined Premier Division side Surbiton, Rais will now play at the back with Slay, a teacher at Orwell Park School who had four years with Reading and one with Sunday's opponents, Hounslow.
"John is a great find as far as we are concerned and knows a few things about short corner routines, which should benefit us enormously," said Rais.
After last week's game was cancelled, Ipswich seconds will be hoping for three points at Cambridge University seconds.
The third team, who lost 2-0 at Little Baddow are at home to Harlow, while the fourths, despite a brace from Richard Tenwick, lost 4-3 to Upminster seconds and tomorrow face Witham seconds.
Rob Glassford scored the consolation as the fifths lost 4-1 to Ford seconds, but will also want to chalk up a victory when they take on Wapping seconds.
The sixth team beat Upminster fourths 4-1 and face a tough game and a long trek to Wapping thirds, while a hat-trick from the evergreen Peter Glading helped the Veterans, who tomorrow play Waveney, beat Broadland 4-1.
Orwell Ladies were unlucky not to take all three points in their Printwize East League Division Two North game with Alford, having to settle for a 2-2 draw, and will be looking to go one better at St Ives.
The second team, who lost 4-1 to Hadleigh are at Carlton in the Premier Division of the Suffolk League while the thirds, who drew 3-3 with Lowestoft, play Castaways.