PICTURE SPECIAL: How Chichester's hockey final made a little boy's dream come true
Chichester Hockey Club had a day they'll remember forever when they took on Beeston in the national Hockey Association cup final at the Olympic Park at Lee Valley.
Here captain Kieran Henn writes exclusively for the Observer on a day to savour...
“Beeston were a quality side who took the chances available to them and defended well to ensure we had few shooting opportunities.
As we progress up the leagues, games are won and lost by the smallest margins – odd moments of brilliance can change the course of a match and simple mistakes get punished.
But the great thing about Sunday is that I know that wasn’t our best performance, and it’s comforting to know that even without putting in our best display, we were still within reach of a Premier League side.
In terms of the team and coaches, I couldn’t be prouder of the way they conducted themselves on and off the pitch throughout this whole season.
To fight our way out of a relegation battle as well as reach a national cup final is a great achievement. I know they were disappointed with the result but as our chairman has said, it is a testament to how far we have come that that’s our reaction.
We accept the result and embrace the occasion but are focussed on progression and improvement to go again next year.
It was a pleasure to stand next to such a great group of guys who have endured a tough season but have never faltered in their effort and commitment to the club and one another.
On a personal level, I have never been more proud than to lead Chichester out in front of so many friends and family. Looking at the crowd and seeing people who taught us how to play, or friends who had travelled hundreds of miles to support us for just one match, is a moment we will never forget.
When I was first started playing hockey, if someone had told me that 20 years later, I would captain the first team in the National League, and on top of that I would lead them out to a cup final at an Olympic venue in front for hundreds of supporters, I would have told them they were mad. Consider this a dream come true for that little boy.
And what about the supporters? Words cannot convey the thanks we have for them, not only for the cup final but for the whole season. It has been a driving force for us to see the club support on the sidelines.
Turning up to away games with close to 20 supporters who have travelled a six-hour round trip or looking over at home games to a sea of nearly 100 people lining the sidelines is one of our greatest motivations.
This level of support, combined with a cup final, made for one amazing atmosphere that even the England Hockey event co-ordinators were impressed with.
The banners, chants, hats, facepaint and sheer volume of support was outstanding and made for a fantastic day that the club won’t forget. Thank you.
The whole experience and occasion was fantastic, it’s a shame we didn’t get fairytale ending but instead we are left with a strong desire to do it all again.
For now we will take a well-earned rest as the season ends, enjoying the break but eagerly waiting in anticipation looking forward to what next season has in store for us.”
Match report - Chichester 0 Beeston 3
Two goals from Beeston’s Richard Lawrence clinched Beeston’s fifth national men’s cup after an excellent performance saw off brave Chichester 3-0.
Lawrence struck twice in the second half to add to Stuart Pilgrim’s early penalty stroke to end Chi’s dreams of a fairytale at the final hurdle.
Much of the talk pre-match centred around the potential of another premier-division scalp for Chichester who had already collected two en route to the final. However Matt Taylor’s side were disciplined, well prepared and professional and got the job done in front of a big crowd who provided an electric atmosphere.
Beeston dominated the first half with Maciej Pacanowski in the Chichester goal called upon to deny Chris Proctor, Lawrence and then Hamish Imrie in quick succession with a string of splendid saves.
On six minutes the Bees made the breakthrough. Pilgrim kept calm to slot in a low penalty stroke to settle his side into the match. The Polish stopper was at it again moments later getting down sharply to his right to repel another Lawrence penalty corner.
Proctor and Mohan Gandhi were dominating the middle of the pitch and Chichester’s attacks were restricted to fast breaks and half chances.
Beeston extended their lead four minutes after the break thanks to Lawrence. Joe Sharp cut in from the right and forced a save from the goalkeeper. The ball popped up and Richard Lawrence made no mistake, volleying in the rebound.
Gandhi and Proctor both went close but then at the other end, Jamie Cachia, largely a spectator till this point, was called upon making superb save from Martin Gough’s deflection.
Chichester poured forward in search of a goal but it was Beeston who extended the lead, Lawrence spinning and firing in an unstoppable shot from near the top of the circle.
There was still time for an outstanding goal line clearance from Matt Sewell and another fine save by Cachia but Beeston were in control and saw the game out to take the cup.
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