Leadenham Hockey Club’s clean sweep streak came to an end on Saturday, but the club still had plenty to celebrate as the men’s seconds secured their first championship win.
An away trip to experienced Alford presented an intimidating match-up, particularly given recent injuries had forced a number of changes to squad. A goal on 57 seconds for the visiting side certainly eased any fears though, and set the tone for what was a performance befitting that of champions elect.
On the rare occasions the home side ventured out of their half, their attacks were capably mopped up by Jason Tholen and Paul Cullen at the back, with the ball quickly recycled into Leadenham’s attacking third.
This attacking pressure led to a 5-0 half time scoreline.
The second half continued in much the same vein, however the hosts began to exploit Leadenham’s high line, forcing them to drop deeper and giving the beleaguered Alford defence some respite.
A penalty flick was awarded midway through the half as an Alford man used his body to block a shot on the goal line, allowing James Ireland to take his goal total to four on the day – a particularly impressive feat given his limited recovery time from a hamstring strain.
The match finished 9-0, confirming Leadenham’s promotion and champion status. Goal scorers were James Ireland (4), Dale Line, Jack Cullen, Ben Huggins, Andy Carter and Henry Young.
Leadenham ladies also picked up a positive win against Alford to take them within one point of league leaders and this week’s opponents Bourne.
A strong first half performance saw Leadenham go 4-0 up before the break, making the most of their passing skill to break down a resilient Alford back line. Captain Sophie Walker capitalised on a penalty corner to net a rare goal, to support a Katie Ireland brace and neat flick from Emily Smith.
Leadenham began to tire in the second half and their pace dropped but they were able to extend their lead through Sophie Gretton. A hard working performance from the midfield allowed the ladies to see out the remainder of the game and set up an exciting clash this Saturday.
The match also saw young goalkeeper Millie Armond keep her eighth clean sheet of the season.
Unfortunately, there were defeats for the other sides in action. Nathan Chambers bagged a consolation for the men’s firsts as they fell to a 5-1 defeat at the hands of March Town. They do, however, retain an eight-point advantage over Cambridge City Vets as they look to avoid relegation.
Finally, a strong showing from a young third side also met with defeat in a 4-2 loss against Louth. Max Cullen and Nick Turner both converted penalty corners.
Leadenham extends its thanks to all the umpires, supporters, opponents and club sponsors Mountain Skip Hire.
Results: Div 3 NW – March Town M1 5 LHC M1 1; Div 4 NW – LHC L1 5 Alford L2 0; Div 6 NWN – Alford M2 0 LHC M2 9, LHC M3 2 Louth M2 4.