Playing for the future

WHILE the future of the English Hockey Association is being discussed inside Milton Keynes tomorrow, Ipswich will be playing for theirs on the pitch outside.

By Martin White

WHILE the future of the English Hockey Association is being discussed inside Milton Keynes tomorrow, Ipswich will be playing for theirs on the pitch outside.

One win and a draw from their previous two play-off games has lifted the Henley Road side to the top of the inter-league play-off group in a bid to retain their status in Division Two of the English Hockey League.

Their first of three matches is against third-placed Harborne while the following day they take on lowly Bath Buccaneers.

The final game takes place on bank holiday Monday against Bowdon, who are highly fancied to join the elite next season.

With two places up for grabs and Ipswich currently in pole position, a couple of victories would guarantee the Suffolk side a third season at national level and avoid the ignominy of relegation.

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Skipper Asif Rais, who is confident his squad can achieve the necessary results, said: "We didn't play particularly well in the first game against Harleston but were very convincing winners against City of Portsmouth.

"The desire among the players is very much in evidence and the last thing we want to do is throw away all the hard work that got us into this league."

Rais was a key figure in the side two years ago when promotion from the East league was achieved via the play-offs – although the format of them has since been changed.

On that occasion, Ipswich topped their group at Milton Keynes before beating Isca, runners-up in the other section, in front of a packed crowd at Henley Road.

That result saw Isca lose their national league place and Rais added: "We know how their players felt at the time and we certainly don't want to go through similar emotions. As long as we stick to our game plan and don't do anything silly, I'm sure we'll get through."

Tomorrow's fixtures: City of Portsmouth v Bowdon, Harborne v Ipswich, Bath Buccaneers v Harleston Magpies.

Sunday: Harborne v City of Portsmouth, Ipswich v Bath Buccaneers, Bowdon v Harleston Magpies.

Monday: Bath Buccaneers v Harborne, Harleston Magpies v City of Portsmouth, Ipswich v Bowdon.

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