Qualification for EH Finals Day is a success in itself. On the day, you are entering a new ‘festival’ competition of shorter games in which luck and nerve play a big part. This is an occasion to show hockey being played and umpired in ‘the right spirit’. All teams were there to win, but you had to accept that there would be winners and losers, good decisions and poor decisions, but it should always be a day to remember and cherish whatever the outcome. WBMHC U18 Boys had a good day and made plenty of new friends.
We arrived as the underdogs, the team few had heard of (“Where is West Bridgford?” was a question frequently asked), and our semi-final opponents, Reading, made the mistake of underestimating us. Starting the game well, moving the ball around purposefully, competing hard and fairly, we took the game to Reading and were rewarded when Richard Lloyd-Mills volleyed in a deflection off the keeper. We tried hard to extend the lead but were unlucky and went into the break leading. The second half saw Reading increase the pace and impose themselves (although this did allow us further chances) and the short corner count at our end mounted with two great saves on the line by Henry Ellis and excellent keeping by James Leverton-Smith, keeping us ahead. Finally, in the last minute, Reading put a short away and the game went to flicks.
We should have known that the Gods were with us when Fred scuffed the first flick but wrong-footed the keeper and the ball just reached the back-board! From there we were 3-2 down after the third round but they hit a post and then JLS made a save and Henry slotted in our fifth flick to secure a place in the final 4-3.
Belper were our opponents in the final and we were ready for them. Again we started well and were ahead through Richard Lloyd-Mills again after three minutes, could the dream come true? Belper though had other ideas and their England player stepped up, inspiring those around him. They scored twice before half-time and again early in the second half to seal the trophy 3-1. We were never out of the game though and battled all the way to the final whistle with David Bennett, our outstanding player of the day, leading by example throughout.
The success of the team is founded in teamwork and commitment.
U18 Squad members: James Leverton-Smith, Neil Coupland, David Bennett (capt), Jamie Howard, Josh Hayes, Dan Owen, Henry Ellis, Alex Marshall, Alex Brockhurst, Fred Notman, Dom Halter, Richard Lloyd-Mills, James Godber, Joe Bailey, Chris Fischer, Khaleel Seedat.
We were wonderfully supported by parents and families as we have been all season. Given the highs and lows of the day, they retained their sense of humour and perspective admirably and are a credit to WBMHC. Thanks also to Simon Cooper, no other team had their own photographer and he has made a brilliant series of photos of the day available on Facebook.
Here is the story according to the England Hockey website.
In the first of the Plate semis Belper defeated Colchester 3-0 with goals from Jake Trembling and two for captain James Couzens. The second semi was a lot closer affair with Reading and West Bridgford Monarchs ending the game 1-1, Reading’s Joe Mahony cancelling out Richard Lloyd-Mills first half goal. Reading led the penalty shoot-out 3-2 but Bridgford turned that round to win it 4-3 and set up an all-East Midlands final. Lloyd Mills was also on target in the final opening the scoring on 3 minutes but by half time Belper had turned the game around thanks to goals from Josh McCallion and Couzens again. Charlie Redfern made it 3-1 early in the second half and no further goals meant that it was Belper who ran out winners.