Team spirit forged in the heat of last season's relegation battle will be key to Hampstead and Westminster Hockey fortunes this season.

The Paddington team had to win a relegation play-off to stay in the EHL Premiership last season after being docked two points for fielding an ineligible player.

But, according to captain Ed Bevan, the struggle they went through has bonded the team.

He said: "The team went through a lot last season, but proved that we can get through the pressure games. "The core of the squad remains there, and we all feel we can do better this season. "Realistically, Reading, Surbiton and East Grinstead are going to be the top teams, but we want to finish as close behind them as possible."

The west Londoners suffered two high-profile departures over the summer, with leading scorer Andy Cornick moving west to Surbiton, whilst Ben Rodgers has gone east to work in Singapore. In their place, H&W have recruited Pakistan-born midfielder Dilawar Hussain and Mike Hughes from Old Georgians.

"Hughes is a strong character and is a good addition to the team, but he has picked up a foot injury in training so may not be around for the first few weeks," said Bevan. "Dilawar is new to English conditions, but is an exciting prospect."

H&W begin their campaign at Reading on Sunday.