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London Docklands 3 London Knights 1

Head coach Andy Hopper conceded that London Docklands’ seventh win in a row would not live long in the memory, but was delighted to see his team move to the top of the National League Division One table.

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Despite dropping the second set at Bacon’s College, Docklands recovered to edge past their struggling opponents.

And Hopper admitted his relief at getting over the line, with his team now in the driving seat for promotion.

“It may not have been pretty at times, but the important thing was the win,” he said.

“We stuck together well when the pressure was on and won the important points.”

With Platon Vogiatzoglou now plying his trade in America, Pawel Stankiewicz stepped into the opposite slot, while captain Mark Baechli was sidelined with an injury that is expected to keep him out for at least another month.

Knights’ squad included ex-Docklands player Matt Butterworth and they gave a debut to libero Panikos Patsalides, who impressed Docklands enough to give him the MVP award.

Docklands started well with Knights unable to cope with the range of Slawek Omlyski and Raul Sanchez Galan. Stankiewicz produced a string of jump serves to help take the score from 5-5 to 11-5.

The home side dominated the play and strolled to the first set 25-13.

A new formation for Knights in set two had immediate success, forcing Docklands coach Hopper to take his first time-out, 6-2 down.

Docklands clawed their way back into the set after good work by Tom Wenzel and Alessandro Galli closing the deficit to one point at 19-18.

The visitors recovered to open up a 22-19 lead after two consecutive points from Stefanos Doukidis though, which proved to be the crucial break as Knights held on to take the set 25-21.

Docklands made another slow start to the third set and quickly found themselves 4-0 down.

They managed to re-establish their side-out game before another run of Stankiewicz serves helped Docklands tie the score at 8-8. The set continued to be tight, but Docklands made the first break with Wenzel leading the way, applying subtle service pressure.

A combination of Knights errors and persistent blocking by Docklands saw the first set point at 24-20. A serving error gave Knights a slim chance and after two deceptive Taku Yamamoto serves, the comeback was still on.

But after a substitution delay he could only find the net with his next serve, giving Docklands the set 25-23.

Set four was another close affair with Docklands just ahead at the second technical time-out, 16-15.

More consistent serving by Stankiewicz helped Docklands edge ahead and they maintained their slender lead with Sanchez Galan showing off his variety of shots from front and back court, before scoring the winning point for a 3-1 win.

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