Following on from finishing runners-up in the South Regional Indoor Tournament, Sevenoaks Hockey Club’s U18 boys travelled to Telford for the National Championship featuring the 10 best teams in England.
The first game on Saturday was against Repton. Lewis Wilcher scored early for Sevenoaks but Repton equalised just before half time. Matt Morey put Sevenoaks ahead but two quick goals from Repton gave them the lead. Sevenoaks pulled their goalkeeper off to give them an additional outfield player and scored two goals in a minute through Paul van Velsen and Ash Sewell. With Paddy Walton restored in goal Sevenoaks saw out the final two minutes to record a very good 4-3 win.
Next up were Team Bath. Each team had a player awarded an early green card but the game settled down after that. Sevenoaks were in control and scored twice before half time, Cam McCabe and Alex Thomson getting the goals. Two goals in two minutes from Morey settled the game, and although Bath scored at the end, it finished 4-1.
At the end of the first day, Sevenoaks were unbeaten on six points and in with a good chance of qualifying for the semi finals.
Sunday started with a game against Ipswich. A very controlled performance saw Sevenoaks win 3-0. Thomson, McCabe and Wilcher scored the goals which gave Sevenoaks a top 2 finish in their group and a guaranteed semi final place.
The final group game was against Bowden, last years runners up and the other unbeaten team in the group. A very cagey first half was played out with both sides keeping possession but not creating many chances.
Sevenoaks won the ball when Bowden were in possession and a quick break saw Sewell score to make it 1-0 at half time. The 2nd half was a little more open and Sewell got his second of the match to give Sevenoaks a two-nil lead. Bowden scored with 30 seconds to go, but Sevenoaks held on for a hard fought win to top their group with a 100% record.
In the semi-final they then faced Harrogate who had finished runners up in their group, but had been scoring more goals than anyone else. As expected it was a physical game. Wilcher scored early on however Harrogate managed to equalise before half time. Harrogate then scored their 2nd penalty corner to make it 2-1. Sevenoaks again pulled their goalkeeper off to give them an additional outfield player. The Harrogate goalkeeper made a good save in open play and then a Sevenoaks corner was cleared off the line. With a keeper off there was always the chance Harrogate might score and they did with three minutes to go. Try as they might, Sevenoaks couldn’t find the two goals they needed and eventually lost 3-1.
The disappointment of missing out on the final was plain to see amongst the players but it was a fantastic effort from the team who in two tournaments had won 10 games and only lost two.
The effort and level of performance from all 10 players was amazing and after the disappointment fades they should be proud of being one of the top four teams in the country.