Wimbledon Hockey Club’s player-coach Ben Marsden is ready to face a wounded giant as his team prepares for the climax of the race to the Premier Division.

After last weekend’s 4-1 win over Cardiff in the first of three round robin play-off matches, Wimbledon face Southgate on Saturday and Sheffield Hallam on Sunday.

Southgate, who are in the play-offs by virtue of finishing ninth in the Premier Division, were beaten 3-0 by Sheffield, winners of the Conference North, last weekend, and Marsden is expecting a reaction.

However, he also knows victory over Southgate could be enough as the top two from the play-offs will enter the Premier Division.

He said: “We’re in a good position going into the weekend, on top of the table with a better goal record.

“It was a big surprise when Sheffield beat Southgate, and it shows that, at this stage, anything can happen.

“But Southgate will be licking their wounds, and they will be giving absolutely 100 per cent because they know, if they beat us, they are right back in the hunt.

“They are a side full of history and prestige and we will need to be at our very best to beat them.

“We started slowly against Cardiff and went 1-0 down. “Maybe there were a few jitters, but once we got our flowing hockey going, we were fine.

“We have a fully fit squad available and I truly believe that we will turn out some of our best hockey this weekend, as long as we stick to what we know best.”

Wimbledon had been due to play Surbiton in a friendly on Tuesday night, but it was called off by Marsden.

“It was not right for us in the end,” he said.

“Playing four games in seven days was not ideal, and even though it was a friendly, local rivalry can boil over into ‘I am going to win this come what may’ from both sides and injuries are not what we want.

“I know that Surbiton would have benefitted more from it than us, but I spoke to their manager, James Lloyd, very frankly and he understood where I was coming from.”

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