Hockey: Woodcock unfazed by step up

Grange's Duncan Batchelor in training ahead of this weekend's action

Grange's Duncan Batchelor in training ahead of this weekend's action

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DAVE WOODCOCK will be Grange’s last line of defence in Europe after only playing one game for the club’s top hockey side this season – but he’s not fazed by the challenge.

The trainee accountant stands in for regular No. 1 Colin Johnstone, who is unable to make the trip to the EuroHockey Club Champions Challenge 1 in Zagreb.

Woodcock, 24, has stepped into the breach in Europe before, standing guard between the posts as the Edinburgh club played in the same competition in Cardiff two years ago where the Edinburgh-born stopper helped the Stockbridge-based club make the final.

Grange open their campaign in Croatia against H C 1972 on Saturday. They were meant to play A D Lousada (who competed in the EuroHockey Indoor Championship Trophy in Edinburgh in February) tomorrow, but the Portuguese outfit pulled out earlier this week.

Woodcock argued that the delay could work in the Scots’ favour as it allows Grange’s coaching staff to run the rule over the other two teams in Pool A, H C Rakovnik from the Czech Republic, and Gibraltar-based Eagles HC. They play at lunchtime on Friday.

And the hot-stop, who helped Grange II into runners-up spot in the Regional League Central Division 1, believes the Scots can emerge with a medal.

The former Manchester University student said: “It’s a big step from the Regional League to Europe, but I’ve done it before. In Cardiff two years ago, I took over and we won 4-0 against Whitchurch and we got to the final where we lost 6-3 to a Russian side.

“Colin [Johnstone] can’t make the trip. He’s played all our games in Division One this year apart from our final game against Hillhead. We lost 3-2 but we were trying out things with Europe in mind.

“Of course, it’s very exciting but you have to be ready. We’ve prepared well with good training sessions and matches against the Scotland under-21s to keep up momentum. We have a strong team which is a good mixture of youth and experience.”

The youngest player travelling is rising star Hamish Imrie, 15, who has been scoring regularly in the first team, and the oldest is Edinburgh solicitor Duncan Batchelor.

Experienced Andrew Brogdon won’t play because of injury and coach Colin Clarke is sweating over the fitness of Martin Johnstone (knee) and Colin Maciver (hamstring). Both players will travel.

Martin Johnstone, whose season was cut short because of a wrist injury, felt a twinge during the first 20 minutes of last Saturday’s victory over Scotland’s Under-21 side and sat out Monday’s final training session.

Maciver also had a watching brief on Monday after suffering his injury in training last week and both players have been undergoing intensive treatment.

Champions Kelburne claimed 122 goals and Grange must capitalise on their chances in Europe. Scottish internationalist Cammy Fraser, who claimed three against the Under-21 side, is on form but others, like Scotland youth international Matt Connor and Duncan Riddell, will be expected to play their part.

Woodcock, pictured below, is, however, concerned about the heat and humidity in Zagreb and is happy the squad have two days to acclimatise which will allow him to try out lightweight kit.

He added: “I’m a placid guy by nature, but I do let the guys know what I want during games. We don’t yet know too much about the opposition but our coach is good at assessing the opposition.

“The Portuguese team pulling out gives us a chance to look at other teams in the competition and that’s helpful.”

On Sunday, Grange play Eagles before Monday’s cross-over ties. Finishing in the top two in the four-day event guarantees promotion from the third tier of European club hockey, and that’s the aim of the Scots.

Clarke said that the weather was a factor but added: “It will not alter our team or tactics but we’ll just have to deal with what Mother Nature provides.

“What we don’t want is one or two injuries and it is up to me to manage the squad over the first two games. We need as many fit guys as we can for the important final game on Monday.”

Grange schedule:

Saturday: Grange v HC 1972 Rakovnik (1.00pm). Sunday: Grange v Eagles HC (11.00am). Monday: Crossover ties from 8.30am.