It could have been a gloomy final weekend of the hockey league season for Chichester – instead it turned into a memorable one.
The afternoon began with Chichester in ninth spot and one of three teams battling to avoid the relegation play-offs.
The maths meant that if the sides in seventh, eighth and ninth all got the same result, the men from Kingsham would need to play the ninth-placed teams from the north and the east divisions, with only one of the three staying in National League – an escape route they had managed to pull off a year ago.
Chichester needed to beat Old Georgians and were dependent on either Fareham or Isca drawing or losing.
Their determination to win was visible from the start as they showed superb pace – and within two minutes, rising star Alex Pendle sent a blistering strike in to the top right-hand corner of the visitors’ goal.
Four minutes later Luke Emmett capitalised on a well-worked short-corner routine and found the back of the Old Georgians goal with a blistering strike.
Chichester continued to apply pressure and only a minute later, Chichester made it 3-0 with a thundering strike from Alex Thakore in to the bottom corner. What a start!
The visitors started to find their feet and began to construct threatening attacks but Chichester defended well all over the pitch, built on a solid foundation of in-form goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski, with a strong defensive platform of Dan Brook, Matt Sewell, Kieran Henn and Louis Gibbons.
The second half was much the same with both teams having chances but Chichester were able to defend a string of Old Georgians short corners as well as absorb the additional pressure coming from visitors chasing the game.
Seven minutes into the second half Chichester’s lead was extended when Matt Sewell passed the ball with pinpoint accuracy to Andrew Sparshott, who lifted the ball over a defender’s stick and struck the ball on the volley and blasting it in to the bottom corner.
The final goal came from Ollie Baxter, who had positioned himself perfectly to pick up a rebound and calmly reserve-stick the ball underneath the advancing keeper.
This capped a brilliant game and Chicheste didn’t have to wait to hear that the other results had gone their way and they had avoided the relegation play-offs.
Chichester captain Kieran Henn was jubilant afterwards and said: “We want to say a big thank-you to all ar the club.
“The support we see from the sidelines and all the hard work that goes unmentioned from the behind the scenes continues to be overwhelming and motivates us to give everything each and every game.
“It is an honour to captain Chichester and I feel very fortunate to be able to play at a high level with such good friends as team-mates, coaches and managers.
“There is a great excitement for next season now, and a desire to continue to improve and climb up the National League rankings.”
This brilliant result on Sunday capped a record-breaking season, for seventh spot in Conference West is the highest position the club have ever achieved in any league.
Henn said: “It’s testament to the hard work and determination that the whole club continue to display.”
Chichester: Pacanowski, Brook, Sewell, Henn, Gibbons L., Lerwill, Thakore, Cox, Emmett, Gibbons C, Baxter A, Baxter O, Pendle A, Sparshott, Collins. Coach: Collins. Manager: Gibbons R. Assistant coach: Pendle N.
Chichester Ladies 6 Brighton 2nds 2
Another fantastic win saw Chichester finish their Sussex Premier League season in second position with 56 points and 18 wins out of 22.
They went into their last game in fighting form after reaching the English Vase final at Lee Valley.
There is always a fierce rivalry between the two teams so everything was to play for.
Chi went 1-0 up after 20 minutes as Verena Sambel linked with Charlotte Cox to create a dummy around the keeper for Sambel to finish.
The midfield created strong links with defence as Natty Halliday joined forces with Sally Bradley to create the big passes through the middle to find Cita Haines and Demelza Peake on the left wing.
Brighton caught Chi off guard and a cheap short corner saw a sweet strike make it 1-1.
Chi didn’t let this get them down as Meg Goring and Mirriam Sparshott played a nice one-two on the right to find Anna Healey in the middle.
Lottie Greenlees found a foot and Chi gathered a short corner just before half-time. Haines fired in from the deflection to find the bottom corner and the half-time score was 2-1.
The second half wasn’t as close as the first, but was still end-to-end and Chi keeper Claire Goodger-Greenway made some outstanding saves to keep them ahead.
There were two very quick goals after some excellent interceptions from Meg Hattemore and Jess Gleeson as Cox and Hyla got on the scoreboard again.
Brighton came back with another goal and with ten minutes to spare it was 5-2 – but it was too little too late.
Goring came on with three minutes to spare and put the cherry on the cake on the right wing as Greenlees and Goring linked up with Sambel on the back post – but it was Goring who lifted over the keeper as the final whistle went to make it 6-2.
Crowborough 5 Chichester Ladies 2nds 1
What a disappointing end to Chichester ladies’ seconds’s season.
Chichester had only ten players – in fact they had only nine half an hour before they were due to leave but Elaine Cruttendon came to their rescue.
Chichester’s ten played well but could not maintain the effort playing againat a full team.
The game was spoilt slightly by some poor umpiring, with Chichester feeling many offences went unpunished while they were pulled up over some questionable decisions.
Crowborough scored three before half-time and two more in the second half.
Rachel Trent, working hard as usual, added to her tally, and has scored more than 20 goals this season.
Chichester had a great season, doubling their goal and points tallies from last season and finishing fifth in the league.
Chichester: Claire Young, Tracy Austin, Charlotte Stemp, Sarah Jessop, Rachel Trent, Nat Spencer, Harriet Gray, Jenna Greenway, Vicky Oliver-Catt, Elaine Cruttendon.
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