Officially, the East League hockey season was scheduled to end on March 17, but consistently poor weather has seen a number of re-arrangements.
Only one of those matches took place over the weekend. Leadenham Hockey Club ladies travelled to Long Sutton in midweek, with Kath Price and Katie Ireland (2) netting under the floodlights to secure a 3-0 win. They now face a nervous wait until April 14 when they take on Spilsby in a match likely to decide the Division Four title.
But Saturday was an all-Leadenham affair with the men’s second string taking on the thirds in a derby to round off a very successful season for both teams. The fine spring sunshine brought out a large and fiercely partisan crowd who were treated to what was arguably the most competitive match of the season, and certainly the most enjoyable.
The casual observer would have been hard pressed to guess which side occupied which position in the table as the thirds demonstrated a ravenous hunger for the victory. The newest of the Leadenham teams dominated much of the first half possession, using their understanding of the second string’s tactics to break up play and constrain the match to the middle third.
Very few chances were created at either end but with both sides pushing hard as half time approached, the ball fell to leading men’s goal scorer James Ireland who crashed home from the top of the D.
Henry Young made sure the league winners could not rest on their laurels, equalising for the thirds shortly after the restart with a savage strike from the right hand side deflecting off Neil Baldwin’s stick to level proceedings.
This opened up the game with both sides catching the scent of victory. The midfield tussle became an end-to-end affair, which perhaps suited the seconds, their high tempo and proclivity for counter-attacking unsettling a normally very well organised thirds defence.
Further goals from Ireland, Will Hill and Joe Beardall (2) left the result firmly in the seconds’ hands, but the 5-1 score line could not possibly reflect how hard the team had been made to work by their clubmates.
The Final result saw Leadenham 3rd finish fifth in their debut season, and the seconds complete an invincible year, conceding a sixth division record of only six goals in total.
The club would like to thank umpires David Sykes and Ben Lane. Derbies can be heated affairs but they oversaw a free-flowing game of hockey, without a single card.
Thanks was also expresed to sponsors Mountain Skip Hire for their continued support, plus club supporters, especially those who battled through snow and rain to cheer both teams on throughout the season.