Kent duo secure Premier Division hockey

Holcombe Gareth Andrew celebrate 480 x 290

In the final round of the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League Play-Offs, it was the teams from Kent who came out on top in the battle for Promotion. Holcombe, having played in the Conference East league this season, comfortably overturned Team Bath Buccaneers, winning 5 – 1, with goal scorers including a brace from James Steadman. Their local rivals Canterbury managed to maintain their Premier Division status as they ran out 4 – 2 winners against Bowdon, with clinical Australian Craig Boyne on target for Kwan Browne’s side.

Team Bath Buccaneers 1 (0)
Ben Stone 53 (FG)

Holcombe 5 (2)
James Steadman 15, 65 (PC, FG)
David Appleton 35 (FG)
Stephane Vehrle-Smith 42 (FG)
Gareth Andrew 53 (FG)

Holcombe controlled the game from the start, dominating possession and threatening in attack. The deadlock was broken in the 15th minute as James Steadman touched home from close range following a penalty corner. On the stroke of half time, the Kent side doubled their lead as David Appleton lifted calmly on his reverse over Tom Skinner in the Buccaneers goal.

After the break, Holcombe continued as they had left off with Stephane Vehrle-Smith adding to the tally.  Team Bath Buccaneers gave themselves hope, replying instantaneously through Ben Stone, as the number seven deflected Liam Sanford’s fiery cross past George Pinner. However, with England and Great Britain’s Iain Lewers distributing pin-point aerials from defence, Holcombe ran out comfortable winners in the end. Firstly Gareth Andrew fired an unstoppable shot past Skinner and then the scorer turned provider, setting up Steadman for his second and a 5 – 1 win for the Conference East Champions.     

Holcombe’s Captain Richard Lane spoke to us after the game:  
On gaining promotion to the Premier Division: “It’s been a long three or four seasons of hard work; we’ve missed out by one point, then one game and finally one goal, so it’s great to finally have made it into the Premier Division.”
On the performance today against Team Bath Buccaneers: “We played well. Bath were a lot tougher than we thought they would be coming into the weekend. They put in a great performance yesterday to beat Bowdon and they’ve got some strong midfielders and quick forwards. Tim Davenport’s been really strong for them this season, but we executed our game plan in stopping them from getting corners.”

Bowdon (1) 2
David Egerton 27 (PC)
Lee Parry 51 (PC)

Canterbury (2) 4
Wei Adams 19 (FG)
Matt Burton-Bowen 29 (FG)
Michael Farrer 41 (FG)
Craig Boyne 68 (FG)

Bowdon came out of the blocks much sharper than Canterbury with a string of chances in the first 10 minutes. However, they were unable to get past the staunch Canterbury defence, and soon the Kent side were exerting pressure of their own. It was no surprise when Wei Adams gave Canterbury the lead, deflecting a wayward shot down into the Bowdon goal.

The lead did not last long, and Bowdon eventually got just rewards for their work, Dave Egerton linking up with his brother Simon in a wonderfully worked penalty corner routine to level the scores. The celebrations were short lived though, as Matt Burton-Bowen put away a loose ball from close range, reasserting Canterbury's single goal advantage.

When Mike Farrar netted from a wonderful strike early in the second half, Canterbury looked as though they were on course to retain their Premier Division status. Bowdon, playing purely for pride, kept the pressure on, Lee Parry putting away a penalty corner and keeping his team in the battle. But this was always going to be Canterbury's day, and Craig Boyne settled the result with a fine finish late on to leave his side with a 4 - 2 victory.

After the game, Canterbury Captain Tom Richford spoke to us about consolidating their place in the Premier Division: “We were really happy with our performance today. The game was quite scrappy at times, but we kept focussed on our game plan and that paid dividends towards the end of the 70 minutes.  We managed to get the goals we needed whilst restricting their chances, so we’re pleased with the overall result.”
On looking ahead to next season: “We had some tidy signings come in at Christmas, some of which were pre-planned, and looking ahead to the new season it will be about strengthening and consolidating the squad we’ve built in the second half of the season. If we continue to play in the way we have been recently then I think we’ve got every chance of being at the opposite end of the table and in the Championship Play-Offs this time next year.”