Hockey, by Martin Read –
Horsham have won Kent and Sussex Division 1, earning promotion to the South Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.
A 4-2 win at Bexleyheath and Belvedere leaves them in an unassailable position with two games to spare, 14 points clear of their nearest rivals.
Ecstatic captain Duncan Howarth told The District Post: “It all feels a bit surreal at the moment, but this is a very exciting time for the club.
“Our great achievement is just beginning to sink in, but I must pay fulsome tribute to our player-coach, Dominick Male, who joined us from East Grinstead this season.
“As well as contributing crucial goals, he’s been spot-on with his guidance. I really can’t praise him enough, especially as this is his first experience of coaching seniors.
“We’re a galvanised unit and have prepared well, focusing on each game with commitment and concentration to ensure that no opponent was able to blow us off course.
“Last season we nearly went up, narrowly losing out to Sutton Valence who we beat in the run-in. This term we had a close game in the cup against Lewes, so we’ll strengthen our squad further and should be able to give a good account of ourselves in the South Premier.”
Horsham needed one point to secure the title at Bexleyheath and Belvedere and they won comfortably, despite atrocious weather in the first half
In a game where the hosts’ physical approach was permitted free reign, Male opened Horsham’s account and top scorer John Burroughs made it 2-0 before the interval. Male and Burroughs scored again after the break, making it 3-1 and 4-2 respectively.
Burroughs said: “I joined Horsham as a nine-year-old, on the same day as team-mate Mark Ansell, and had never previously picked up a stick. I’ve learnt my skills at the club and worked my way up through the feeder teams, so this is a great day.”
Jubilant team manager Al Campbell added: “It’s been a wonderful season. The team effort has been outstanding, absolutely tremendous with a positive attitude from everyone.
“The team has been well lead and well coached and it’s fantastic to see them scoring so many points and reaching new heights.”
Although deprived of the services of long-term injury victims Ian Brown and James Chesterton, Horsham have led the field throughout, winning 19 matches out of 20 to date, while scoring 94 goals and conceding only 18.
But the players are determined to finish their league programme with two more wins, the first against fifth-placed Marden Russets at Broadbridge Heath on Saturday (3pm).
Lauren Keefe’s photo shows Horsham at Bexleyheath and Belvedere.