Neston Hockey Club Mixed Team win National Championship

Neston HC won the England Hockey Tier 2 National Knockout Championship Final on Saturday 8th June against a resilient Amersham & Chalfont HC mixed team, played at Southgate Hockey Club in North London.

Neston’s road to the final started back in November with victory over local rivals Oxton, followed by wins against Winnington Park, Golborne, Mansfield and Formby which saw them reach the semi-finals. Drawn against Trojan HC away in Southampton the team faced a 500 mile round trip to book their place in the final.

Played on Sunday, 19 May, they had an emphatic victory over Trojan HC beating them 7-0 and their place in the National finals was secured. They learnt who their opponents would be the following weekend when Amersham & Chalfont HC beat Lichfield HC 4-3 in a tight game.

The squad of eight men and seven ladies made a five-hour journey south on Saturday morning, ably driven by Sybil Leeman. Captains Ollie Mills, Erin Kirkby and their team battled hard in a very competitive first half with both teams unable to find the back of the net. Neston came close on a few occasions but Amersham and Chalfont’s keeper kept them in the game.

After an inspirational half-time team talk from Coach Emma Nokes, the second half started brightly with Neston applying the pressure and Martha Kerfoot smartly winning a Penalty Stroke. Jack Cowley duly stepped up to the mark and found the top left corner of the net after sending the Amersham & Chalfont keeper the wrong way. Four minutes later, Stevo (aka Owen Stephenson) scored Neston’s second goal with a rocket shot from the left of the D.

Seven minutes later Ollie Mills bagged a brace of goals from top D to give Neston a 4-0 lead. A&C were now on the back foot but applied some pressure on the Neston goal where Liam Parry had been having a quiet time. A&C were rewarded taking the score to 4-1.

With just over eight minutes to go Neston were awarded a Penalty corner. James Gardiner’s drag flick was saved by the keeper, with the rebound falling to Gardiner who duly beat the keep to his right and Neston were 5-1 up. Whilst it was the men who chalked up the goals, the ladies worked tirelessly breaking up A&C’s attacks and stretching the defence to create numerous opportunities in front of goal. With both Amber Richardson and Martha Kerfoot testing the A&C keeper, who pulled off some brilliant saves throughout the game.

Neston closed out the game and became Tier 2 champions for the first time in the club’s history. Previous National honours were back in the 1990s when the Men’s 1st team won the Dvision 2 league cup in 1990 and the U18 Girl’s Hockey team won the National U18 championship the following year.

A band of loyal supporters had travelled down to Southgate to cheer the team on. Ollie Mills said after the game “A big thanks to all our supporters today, we were outnumbered on the sideline but you definitely were the loudest! The rowdy northerners were in town for sure, and we came away with the win! North vs South and the North wins, up the Shrimps!”

Image: Back row; Emma Nokes (Coach), Fred Bush, James Gardiner, Jack Cowley, Amber
Richardson, Ollie Mills (Captain), Andy Heath, Owen Stephenson, Liam Parry (Goal Keeper)
Front row; Meg Wharton, Lauren Sidebottom, Holly Jones, Cal Steel, Martha Kerfoot,
Cati Jones, Erin Kirkby (Captain)

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