FAREHAM wiped out a 2-0 Oxford Hawks first-half lead only to be beaten 5-2 by last season’s South Premier League champions, who scored three times in the last five minutes to seal a flattering win.

But Fareham played the match with one arm behind tied behind their backs after falling foul of England Hockey’s complex player registration rules, writes Mike Vimpany.

“We were unable to field five first-choice players because of that, including our new Kiwi goalkeeper Tom Mallon and Peru striker Seb Dennison, who sat frustrated watching on from the sidelines,” moaned Fareham head coach Ben Barnes.

“Many clubs have found themselves with players left out due to ‘pending applications.’ EH’s system is not perfect.”

The Western Conference new boys forged into a two-goal lead through a ninth-minute penalty stroke by Jack Biggs and a 25th-minute strike by Andy Watts, who went on to score a hat-trick.

Fareham were back in the game after George Davey had battled his way past three challenges to make it 2-1 by half-time and when inspirational New Zealander Jack Gilbert converted a penalty corner five minutes after the break the visitors eyed a possible victory.

But they ran out of steam towards the end, with a fortunate deflection gifting Watts the chance to restore Oxford’s lead five minutes from time.

Kit Cutter and Watts, whose hat-trick goal was set up by St Cross Symondians cricketer Ed Ellis, cashed in to make it 5-2 by the end.

“Those final two goals didn’t reflect the game,” Barnes pointed out.

“The group showed great character today and that bodes well going forward, with everyone now available at Birmingham University on Sunday.”