FAREHAM crashed to a 3-1 defeat against NOW: Pensions Western Conference champions Team Bath Buccaneers – after conceding two goals in three first-half minutes.

Team Bath netted a third at the beginning of the second half with Ben Hibberd’s late goal little consolation as Fareham’s four-match winning streak came to a halt, writes Mike Vimpany.

“It was always going to be a tough test, but we couldn’t escape the fact we were missing four key players,” reflected coach Ben Barnes.

Rob Moore, James Seager, and Rob Wilson were all working and Alex Boxall was out with a twisted ankle.

Fareham’s depleted ranks began well, with Australian Dan Robertson and Ed Carson making thrusting runs into Bath territory.

It was against the general run of play that Bath took the lead with a stunning strike by former England Under-18 midfielder Nav Degun.

He got the better of two Fareham markers and belted a screaming reverse-stick shot – the Tomahawk in hockey speak – into the top righthand corner from the top of the D.

“It was the best goal I’ve seen this year and one I doubt he’ll score again,” Barnes said.

Fareham had barely regrouped before Team Bath doubled their lead.

It came from a turnover and led to Ben Mackay making it 2-0 from Fareham old boy Shaun Baker’s assist.

“The fast paced game was taking its toll,” said Barnes.

Fareham tried hard to come back before half-time, with some good approach work leading to two penalty corners which Bath handled effectively.

Bath’s Peter Scott thudded a shot against George Harris’s upright and three minutes into the second period Fareham conceded another set piece and Matt Ming screamed a drag flick against the backboards.

It was damage limitation for the visitors after that. Harris made a string of fine saves and Nathan Palmer, probably Fareham’s best player on the day, made a remarkable deflected stop under the crossbar.

Twelve minutes from time Hibberd – fortunate not to have been red carded for retaliation shortly before – poked an angled shot through goalkeeper Stephen West’s legs.

Fareham ended on a high, but were somewhat flattered not to have been beaten by a wider margin.