Banbury go up as champions after comeback on final day

The Banbury squad celebrate after clinching the South Premier Hockey League title
The Banbury squad celebrate after clinching the South Premier Hockey League title

Banbury are heading back to the top division of the South Premier Hockey League as champions.

Having secured promotion the previous week, Banbury came from behind to beat Horsham 3-1 in Saturday’s final division two fixture to claim the title after nearest challengers Henley lost against West Hampstead.

Team manager Steve Brooker said: “We have been in second place every week since before Christmas except for the last week when it really mattered. We’ve conceded fewer goals and scored more than any other team in this division.

“We have a great squad and we can now look forward to the challenges before us next season.”

In the final game Banbury travelled to third place Horsham knowing that if results went their way then they would finish the season as champions, and they did.

The game started with Horsham having a clear game plan to try and disrupt Banbury’s free-flowing hockey. Chances were few and far between in the opening exchanges with Banbury only occasionally being able to break through Horsham solid midfield quartet.

It was Horsham who took the lead when they were awarded a short corner and played an intricate move with David Leadbitter beating Scott Reynolds. The first half produced only a couple of chances from each side and a disjointed Banbury side knew they would have to improve if they were to turn the game around in the second half.

The restart began with Banbury stamping their authority on the game in the early stages creating chances with Nick Best going closest as they looked for the equaliser. After a number of short corner it eventually came through Harry Loxton with a signature reverse stick leaving the Horsham shot-stopper with no chance of keeping it out.

Banbury continued to apply pressure and were rewarded when Josh Nunneley fired low in to the corner from a drag-flick. Banbury were not finished and continued to apply pressure on Horsham who had a player sent to the sin-bin for five of the remaining ten minutes.

That allowed Banbury to open up the Horsham defence and George Brooker found a gap, giving Loxton a simple tap-in at the back post for his 39th goal of the campaign.

After the final whistle the Banbury squad and supporters had a long wait before finding out that West Hampstead had beaten Henley and that confirmed Brooker’s side as champions.