Southampton carried off England Hockey’s Vase trophy with a 3-1 win over Yorkshire League champions Brigg – and immediately dedicated their victory to the club’s Director of Coaching Roger Merry, who died last autumn, just before the start of the season.
“It was the most amazing way for us to say thank you to Roger, who was a legend in local hockey,” said departing player/coach Rob O’Brien, who celebrated his farewell Southampton appearance with the opening goal of the final.
“It was Roger who encouraged most of us to take up hockey and, but for him, a lot of us wouldn’t have been at such an iconic venue as the Olympic Park and winning a national final.
“I’m sure he was looking down on us with a smile, analysing and dissecting the game in his own way.
“He was the first person we thought about when the final whistle blew and we went up to collect the cup.”
Southampton became the fifth local side in the past ten years after Andover, Winchester, Camberley & Farnborough and Haslemere to win the Vase.
But against a Scunthorpe-based Brigg side that was looking to add Lea Valley silverware to the Yorkshire League title they clinched recently, they were probably underdogs in the final.
Nonetheless, Southampton took the initiative and were ahead inside five minutes – O’Brien seeing his penalty corner drag flick charged down, but being able to reverse stick the rebound into the bottom left corner.
It was a poignant moment for O’Brien, who was wearing Southampton’s colours for the last time before moving to Newcastle in August.
“It was a see-saw affair until half-time with Brigg pushing forward, but being unable to unlock our defence, where goalkeeper Toby Rigby excelled and skipper Bryn Webber was unflappable,” O’Brien added.
Brigg’s pressure was rewarded with a Dan Clay short corner equaliser nine minutes after the break.
But Southampton’s response was immediate – chances being created before a fine solo run by Oscar Rigby down the left led to a short corner, which George Watling deflected into the top corner to restore the lead.
Brigg pushed forward, but Southampton repelled their attacks before striking the decisive third goal two minutes from the end.
Simon Watson picked out Charlie Griffiths unmarked in the D and the left-back made it 3-1 with a cute deflection and win the cup for Southampton.
It was his one and only goal for the season !
The departing O’Brien choked back the tears of joy on the final whistle.
“To bow out with a national cup winner’s trophy at my childhood club is a dream come true.
“The boys stood up to a strong Brigg team and showed their class and pedigree.
“This a stepping stone for what this first team can go on to succeed,” he smiled.
Skipper Bryn Webber reflected: “There were a lot of nerves, naturally. But the Olympic Park was a fantastic environment to play in and I just hope we get the opportunity to come here again.”
Fareham won their do-or-die battle to stay in the England National Hockey League.
A 3-1 victory over Indian Gymkhana in the final crucial relegation play-off showdown ensured Western Conference standard hockey will remain at Henry Cort next season.
Having beaten Oxton 3-1 on the Wirral a fortnight ago, Fareham only needed to draw with Indian Gymkhana, who lost to the Cheshire side in the first of the three-way shoot-outs.
But a goal in each half by James Evans, pictured above, either side of a waspish penalty corner conversion by Jamie Rawlings, ensured Fareham an outright victory.
The result sent the famous Gymkhana club tumbling into South Premier Division 1 next season, where newly promoted Winchester will feature among their opponents.
“The final whistle felt fantastic,” said an elated Fareham captain Alex Boxall, whose side looked dead-certs for relegation after losing seven of its nine pre-Christmas matches.
“The team has developed massively during the second half of the season and staying in this league on the back of our play-off results is what we deserved after working so hard.”
The ‘last chance saloon’ affair attracted a bumper crowd – probably the biggest ever seen in recent Hampshire club hockey – with spectators hugging the touchline three deep.
The early action saw Rawlings ping a deflected shot inches wide and Fareham’s George Harris save well from a Gymkhana short corner.
But Fareham got a grip on a tense affair 12 minutes in when John Grice pushed the ball into the D, where Evans beat former Great Britain minder Simon Mason from close range.
Rob Wilson too went close before Fareham doubled their advantage with their second penalty corner, which Rawlings powered past a motionless Mason at speed.
Needing to score three times, Indian Gymkhana applied concerted pressure from the second half restart.
But Fareham set themselves up well and kept their goal intact until 15 minutes into the period when Hayden Beltz raised the visitors’ fading hopes.
Fareham fought fire with fire and, eight minutes after IG had clawed the lead back to 2-1, Evans scored the all-important third goal to put the game to bed.
Appropriately James Seager, who wears his heart on his sleeve in Fareham’s cause, created the chance by forcing a close range save from Mason and Evans poked home the rebound.
“James has been a fantastic addition since he joined us from Havant and has provided us with a goalscorer that we’d been missing,” Boxall continued.
But the drama hadn’t finished.
With the clock ticking down, Fareham’s Chris Davey blocked a goal-bound Gymkhana shot with a bruised back to give the visitors a twice taken penalty stroke.
But Fareham’s George Harris, in inspired form during the second half of the campaign, moved to his right to twice stop strokes from David Rae, who got a second bite when the goalkeeper was adjudged to have moved too early.
It proved the last throw of the dice as Fareham saw off the closing minutes to secure a victory so crucial to their immediate future.
Boxall believes Fareham’s success in the relegation play-offs will have a long term beneficial impact.
“Next season, I know the squad will develop even more. Youngsters have gained crucial experience and have shown in recent weeks they are prepared to roll their sleeves up and work for the club,” he said.
“A lot of them have progressed from the club’s youth academy into the National League and are now beginning to find their feet in what is a demanding competition
“I sincerely believe we will move onwards and upwards from here.”
Underdogs Wimborne Wayfarers are planning to upset the formbook by beating favourites Havant in Bank Holiday Monday’s Hampshire Shield final at the Army complex, Aldershot, 3pm.
They were runners-up in Hampshire/Surrey Regional Division 1 this season, compared with Havant’s South Hockey League Premier Division championship triumph, which celebrated a return to the National League Western Conference next season.
The Women’s final features Southampton against hot favourites Basingstoke (1.45), while the Under-18 final between Bournemouth and cup holders Winchester is a repeat of last season.
Monday’s timetable -
10am - Open League Cup: Fareham II v Haslemere II
10am - Girls Under-16: Trojans v Romsey
11.15 – Open League Trophy: Southampton III v Basingstoke IV
11.15 – Boys Under-16: Bournemouth v Havant
12.30 – Ladies Trophy: New Forest v Petersfield
12.30 – Girls Under-18: Havant v Trojans
1.45 – Ladies Cup: Southampton v Basingstoke
1.45 – Boys’ Under-18: Bournemouth v Winchester
3pm – Men’s Final: Havant v Wimborne Wayfarers
3pm – Boys Under-14: Fareham v Bournemouth
4.15 – Men’s Trophy: Aldershot & Farnham v Salisbury
4.15 – Girls Under-14: Fareham v Winchester
Southampton aim to become the fifth local club in recent seasons to lift England Hockey’s Vase trophy when they face Scunthorpe-based Brigg at the Lee Valley Olympic Park, Stratford on Saturday, 1pm.
But they go into the national final as underdogs against a Brigg side that has already been crowned Yorkshire Premier League champions this season.
Southampton, in contrast, finished fifth in Hampshire/Surrey Regional Division 2.
Being the un-fancied finalists suits Southampton down to the ground.
“This is the club’s biggest day in years and we want to do the city proud,” said player/coach and top scorer Rob O’Brien.
“We have knocked out some decent sides to get to the final, are training hard and making sure we are all fully prepared for the final.”
Andover won the Vase in 2007, while there have been three local regional league winners in the past four years, with Winchester, Camberley & Farnborough and last season Haslemere having their names etched on the trophy.
Southampton’s cup run has been full of goals, with O’Brien scoring 16 of 25 strikes.
Round 1: Southampton 3-3 Slough (won 6-5 on penalty strokes)
Goals: O'Brien (2), Matthew Wood .
Round 2: Cheshunt 1-7 Southampton
Goals: O'Brien (5), Liam Eastwood, Josh White
Round 3: Southampton 6-1 Wotton Bassett
Goals: O'Brien (3), Kevin Barrs, George Watling, Jack Holloway
Round 4 (1/4 Final): Southampton 5-2 Amersham & Chalfont
Goals: O'Brien (4), George Watling
Semi Final: Trinity Mid-Whitgiftians 2-4 Southampton
Goals: O'Brien (2), Simon Watson, Oscar Rigby
Southampton’s Vase final squad: Bryn Webber (Captain), Charlie Griffiths, Rob O'Brien, Toby Rigby, Will Thomson, Jack Holloway, Matthew Wood, Liam Eastwood, Joshua White, James Girling, Simon Watson, Craig Harris, Tom Watson, Oscar Rigby, Sam Capper, George Watling.
Fareham have won their do-or-die battle to stay in the England National Hockey League.
A 3-1 victory over Indian Gymkhana in the final crucial relegation play-off showdown ensured Western Conference standard hockey will remain at Henry Cort next season.
Having beaten Oxton 3-1 on the Wirral a fortnight ago, Fareham only needed to draw with Indian Gymkhana to survive.
But a goal in each half by James Evans, either side of a waspish penalty corner conversion by Jamie Rawlings, ensured Fareham victory.
Gymkhana’s fading hopes of rescuing the game ended when Fareham goalkeeper George Harris twice saved penalty strokes by David Rae, the first having to be retaken.
The result means Indian Gymkhana are relegated from the Eastern Conference into the South League Premier 1, where newly promoted Winchester will be among their opponents next term.
* A longer in-depth report will appear here later.
Fareham face Indian Gymkhana in the second phase of their relegation play-off at Henry Cort tomorrow SAT (1pm) knowing that either a draw or a win will guarantee National Hockey League status next season.
Finishing second from bottom in the Western Conference thrust Fareham into a do or die relegation trilogy against Cheshire side Oxton and old rivals Indian Gymkhana.
Oxton drew first blood in the triangular safety battle by beating Indian Gymkhana 4-3, but Fareham put themselves in the box seat in the three team play-off by winning 3-1 on the Wirral a fortnight ago.
“Now we must finish the job,” says stand-in coach Nigel Cook, who stepped down to allow Ben Barnes to take control three seasons ago.
Fareham are leaving nothing to chance and are ensuring their players get the best possible match preparation, even to the extent of the team staying in a Titchfield hotel tonight.
“What happens tomorrow dictates our future,” Cook emphasised.
“We’ve worked very hard to get where we are on the hockey map and remaining in the Western Conference is far from easy bearing in mind our geographical situation.
“There’s a lot of travelling involved and the commitment from the players is immense.”
Apart from Sash Thomas, who has returned to his native Australia, Fareham will be at full strength tomorrow with the return of drag flicker Danny Rawlings a significant boost.
It’s a must-win affair for Gymkhana, for whom veteran former Great Britain Olympic goalkeeper Simon Mason could be making his last appearance tomorrow.
Havant will play Wimborne Wayfarers in the Hampshire Hockey Cup final at the Army’s Aldershot campus on Bank Holiday Monday, May 1.
While Havant were beating Haslemere 4-0 and then edging a 1-0 semi-final victory over Trojans, Wimborne made a somewhat unexpected sortie into what will be their first ever final.
Arguably the best goal of Chris Ridley’s career gave WW a 1-0 half-time lead against Yateley, which Sam Butterfield and Piers Eversleigh improved, writes Mike Vimpany.
Their 1-0 win over South Premier Division 2 champions Winchester raised an eyebrow or two – Hugo Moon getting their second half winner.
Winchester crushed Bournemouth 6-1 in their earlier quarter-final.
Aldershot & Farnham, now coached by former Guildford chief Ian Jennings, will play Salisbury in the Trophy final.
Aldershot beat City of Portsmouth on penalty strokes – the teams drew 2-2 in normal time – while Salisbury edged out Southampton 3-2.
Fareham seconds whipped Hamble 6-1 to set up an Open League Cup final showdown with Haslemere II, who lost to Winchester in last year’s thriller.
Greg Cox and Pete Gwynn gave Fareham a two-goal lead before Hamble pulled a goal back.
Luke Gould’s third just before half-time stifled any prospect of a comeback by Hamble, who leaked further goals by teenage duo Aidem Page and Fergus Jackson, before Cox converted a penalty corner sixth.
Fareham women didn’t match that of the men’s seconds and were dumped out of the Ladies semi-finals, 7-0 at Basingstoke.
Southampton’s 1-1 draw with Winchester went to strokes after Lou Hopkins’ equaliser ten minutes from time cancelled out the first half lead Laura Pitfield had given the visitors.
Mags Ingram converted the all important penalty stroke to give Southampton a 7-6 win.
Fareham rolled up their sleeves to produce a battling 3-1 win at Oxton on the Wirral – and so keep give their prospects of National Hockey League survival a significant boost.
It was a do-or-die affair for Fareham, whose five-year stay in the Western Conference depended on the outcome of the second phase of the relegation trilogy on the banks of the Dee Estuary.
Had Oxton had improved on last weekend’s 4-3 win at Indian Gymkhana and beaten Fareham, the Hampshire club would have been playing newly promoted Winchester in South League Premier Division 1 come the autumn.
Now they’ve a great chance of staying in the National pyramid – and renewing rivalries with neighbours Havant.
“But that will hinge on them beating or even drawing with Indian Gym at Henry Cort on Saturday week, April 22.
“The job’s only half gone,” pointed out the experienced Nigel Cook, standing in for head coach Ben Barnes, who had flown to Florida for a family Easter holiday.
Drag flicker Jamie Rawlings as among the absentees for Fareham, who included five regular second teamers in their patched-up squad.
“Our lads produced a terrific performance in front of a large and partisan Oxton crowd and thoroughly deserved their rewards.”
Cook explained that an enormous amount of preparation had gone into the Oxton match, on which Fareham’s immediate future hinged.
“We’d watched and filmed their match with Indian Gymkhana, so were able to get a game plan set down,” he said.
Cook produced a pre-match ‘Churchillan’ speech to get the Fareham squad fully focussed, but his motivational words were almost fell on deaf ears as Danny and Jamie Rawlings found themselves snarled up in the Liverpool city road works and pitched up ten minutes into the game.
No damage was done as Fareham rebuffed one Oxton penalty corner – and twice gone close themselves with Alex Boxall and James Evans testing Olly Green, the hosts’ goalkeeper.
Fareham’s confidence grew as they fought for every ball, denying Oxton space to launch any meaningful moves.
Midway through the half, Fareham forced their solitary penalty corner – and James Seager sent a pin-point drag flick into the far corner to give the visitors a crucial 17th minute lead and relieve any half-time pressure.
Fareham continued to keep things tight at the back, often causing problems of their own making through loose turnovers.
Oxton forced a series of penalty corners – George Harris making one fine save with an outstretched leg – but as Fareham launched a decent and sustained spell of their own, James Evans drilled a low shot on to the backboard (after some good work on the right by Tom Seebold) to make it 2-0.
Oxton’s own National League future was now under considerable threat and when Ali McKenzie scored to trim Fareham’s lead to 2-1 there was everything to play for.
But their joy was short lived as Chris Davey effectively sealed a crucial Fareham victory with a third visitors’ goal – and send their bench wild with excitement … and relief !
Harris pulled off two fine saves as Oxton launched a desperate late bid to salvage the game.
Tom Seebold literally put his head on the line, needing hospital treatment after receiving facial lacerations when an Oxton cross-shot hit him on the forehead.
Seebold was allowed to return to his Wickham home after minor surgery – but his spirit typified the way Fareham played on the day.
So, now Fareham’s future hinges on Indian Gymkhana’s visit to Henry Cort on Saturday week (1pm) – a match they have to win by three clear goals to save themselves from the drop.
Fareham: Harris, Seebold, Price, Larcombe, Raymond, Davey, Seager, D Rawlings, Boxall, Wilson, Evans, Young, Roche, Page, S Rawlings, Kemp.
* Fareham’s 3-1 win on Deeside means that Trojans are safe from relegation from South Premier Division 2.
Trojans beat Staines 4-2 to finish fourth from bottom of South League Premier Division 2 – but now have to wait and see if their 26-point haul is sufficient to ensure their survival.
A Dave Ferrier second half hat-trick, supported by Joe White’s strike, gave Trojans their win.
Now their fate lies largely with Fareham, whose National League relegation play-off match at Oxton on the Wirral on Sunday lunchtime holds the key to Stoneham survival.
Trojans needed to win their final game by four clear goals to ensure automatic relegation at their visitors’ expense.
Staines set out to defend from the start and a tight first half saw few chances for either team with Trojans dominating possession and Staines looking to counter attack with long aerial balls downfield.
It was Staines that broke the deadlock early in the second half, Adam Cope scoring his 14th goal of the season from a penalty corner.
Trojans didn't panic and began creating more chances as the Staines midfield began to tire.
Dan Ferrier put the home side level with a deflected shot before a well worked penalty corner sent Trojans ahead, Joe White deflecting the ball into the roof of the net.
Ferrier scored again to make it 3-1 with a reverse stick shot from the top of the circle leaving Trojans just over ten minutes to find the remaining two goals that they needed.
With time running out and Staines reduced to ten men, Trojans substituted their goalkeeper for an extra outfield player to press for the extra goals - but Staines hit back when an aerial ball out of defence evaded two defenders leaving Richard Green with an easy finish into the empty Trojans goal.
Ferrier scored again in the final minute, the Solent University student finishing from close range to complete his hat-trick, but despite winning the game 4-2 it wasn't enough to ensure survival.
If Fareham lose in Birkenhead, Trojans will play Hants/Surrey Regional League hockey in October.
Romsey’s gallant bid to stave off relegation from Hampshire/Surrey Regional Division 2 met a disappointing end when Camberley & Farnborough beat them 5-2 in their final match of the season.
The Abbeymen needed to win by two clear goals to clamber above Addiscombe and HAC into the safety zone.
And when Ben Mullan converted a penalty corner inside the opening 90 seconds prospects looked bright for Romsey, who produced some well constructed hockey early on.
The outlook appeared even brighter when Mullan poked in a second from a subsequent penalty corner, but the goal was disallowed because the initial shot was too high.
It proved a pivotal point of the proceedings – and Romsey’s relegation battle – as Camberley, having defended effectively, began to get the upper hand and, after three short corners had been beaten out, Andy Smith beat Loz Scott from a penalty stroke to make it 1-1 at half-time.
Romsey had two close attempts on target early in the second period, but as they pushed forward, so Camberley counter-attacked, with Smith scoring twice more to complete his hat-trick.
There was no way back for Romsey, who conceded two further goals by Mark Smith and Alex Wilson before Dan Miles converted a late penalty corner to trim the visitors’ advantage to 5-2.
The result spells relegation for Romsey, who will play Hampshire League hockey alongside Hamble, Salisbury and Southampton University in the autumn.
Fareham’s National Hockey League future could be decided 260 miles away on Sunday lunchtime – in Birkenhead !
They face North Premier League outfit Oxton in the second of a triple leg National League relegation play-off – and it’s a game they simply cannot afford to lose.
Finishing second from bottom of the Western Conference, Fareham are involved in a three-way battle for survival against Oxton and Indian Gymkhana, who finished in identical positions in the North and East Divisions.
Oxton have already drawn first blood in the trilogy by beating Indian Gymkhana 4-3 and if they win at their Caldy headquarters on the Wirral on Sunday, Fareham are down.
Fareham Head Coach Ben Barnes clarified: “We must avoid defeat at Oxton to stay in the play-offs and then get a better result than Oxton did against Indian Gymkhana to stay up.
“If we win both play-offs games, we’ll stay up. If we lose on Sunday we will be relegated.”
Fareham are leaving on stone unturned in their desperate bid to stave off relegation.
Barnes filmed the entire Gymkhana-Oxton match so Fareham can probe any weaknesses and organise their tactics accordingly.
One significant absentee for Fareham will be influential Australian Sash Thomas, who has returned to Western Australia.
Fareham’s unwanted presence in the National League play-offs had led to their withdrawal from the Hampshire Knockout Cup, which has its quarter and semi-finals at the Southampton Sports Centre on Saturday.
Fareham thrashed Havant – newly promoted to the Western Conference as South Premier League champions – 6-1 in last season’s final, but have reluctantly relinquished their hold on the trophy.
Their absence makes Havant strong favourites to lift the county trophy, though they will have to beat either Bournemouth or Winchester to make the May Day final at Aldershot.
Saturday’s matches –
Quarter-finals: 10.45: Wimborne Wayfarers v Yateley, 12 Bournemouth v Winchester, 1.15 Haslemere v Havant. Bye: Trojans. Semi-finals at 2.30 and 3.45pm.
Quarter-finals: 1045 City of Portsmouth v Southampton University, 12 Weymouth v Salisbury, 1.15 Gosport v Southampton. Semi-finals at 2.30 and 3.45pm.
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