Following an amazing day of hockey on 13th May 2017, the Winchester u14 boys were crowned EH Cup National Champions at Lee Valley (the Olympic Park). The boys had qualified for the finals through the county and regional rounds over the course of the season.
The format of the finals is two groups of 4 teams, with the winners of each group playing for the gold and silver medal, the 2nd placed teams playing for bronze, the 3rd placed teams playing for 5th/6th and the 4th placed teams playing for 7th/8th. We were placed in a group with Canterbury, Leicester and Wakefield. Games are 15mins each way.
To help prepare the boys, we travelled up to Lee Valley on Friday evening and trained for an hour on the Lee Valley pitch. This proved to be a master stroke as the boys arrived on the Saturday morning already familiar their surroundings and raring to go. The first game was against Canterbury the top seeded team in our pool. The boys wasted no time in setting about their business and were soon ahead. The goals just kept coming, 3 from Harry Croft-Baker, an absolute wonder goal from Matty Duncombe and a P flick from Rory Penrose. The game finished 5-0 to Winchester.
Next up were Leicester who have a number of UK Lions in their squad who are known to some of our boys. At the start of this game it was noticeable that our boys were not working to the game plan the coaches had discussed and despite dominating the early part of the game they were unable to find the net. As the game went on Leicester's strong mid field began to impose themselves, Rory in the centre was giving them plenty to think about, but with prior knowledge of some of our players, Leicester were able to attack around them. The first Leicester goal came as a surprise to our players and the second came from a complete comedy moment when a Winchester defender collided with our own keeper, leaving both slightly dazed and out of the game. 2-0 to Leicester was a fair result, unfortunately the boys did not fire on all cylinders and Leicester played calm intelligent hockey and took their chances well.
Following this blow, we re grouped and focused on the next match. There was still a slim possibility we'd make the final, but we just needed to focus on winning the next game. In the final pool game we were up against Wakefield and the boys were back to their goal scoring ways. Our tactical plan was implemented and we dominated the game. Our backs lead by Will Whitmore and Frank Struthers were outstanding and our midfield dominated play. Goals came from Giles Hocking, and Harry Croft-Baker (3).
So we had 2 wins and a strong goal difference, we just needed Canterbury to turn over Leicester in the other pool game. Unbelievably they did this winning 3-1 and putting us into the final on goal difference. Sometimes you need a bit of luck and this was definitely our lucky escape.
In the other pool Surbiton emerged as winners so it would be a Winchester vs Surbiton final. Throughout the day we had depended very heavily on some key players, we just needed one last game from some very tired legs. Lucozade helped a little, but it doesn't take much to motivate our boys for a game against Surbiton and the boys started quickly and were soon troubling the Surbiton defence and we went a goal ahead from Harry Croft-Baker. Other chances went by the wayside and we finished the half 1-0 but feeling like we could have been further in front. It was a nervous second half but once again we were in the ascendancy and a through ball from Rory through to Harry ended with a penalty flick as the Surbiton keeper flawed the Winchester attacker. With 7 minutes on the clock Rory stepped up to take the flick and converted in style sending the keeper the wrong way. The next seven minutes were spent battening down the hatches. Matty dropped back into the midfield, Will Jackson selflessly man to man marked Surbiton's key player ensuring that he did not see much of the ball and Felix pulled off a great save to deny Surbiton at a short corner goal. The game ended 2-0 to Winchester, a highly professional display and nothing less than the boys deserved.
I am immensely proud of this group of boys, many have been with the club since minis and have developed into high quality hockey players capable of competing with the best in the country. Our National Champions are:
Will Whitmore (Captain), Frank Struthers, Will Evans, Freddie Peters, Tom Henley, Rory Penrose, Charlie Johnson, Matty Duncombe, Giles Hocking, Harry Croft-Baker, Felix Northover (GK), Oli Gage (GK), Will Jackson, Sam Boon, Sam Dowek, Will Crompton, Freddie Coulson, Hobie Ambrose (ill for the finals, but big contribution in the regional and county rounds)
Many thanks to Simon, Pete and Ian for their support with the coaching and to the parents who we by far the best supporters at the finals.
It is official:
Updated 22:52 - 14 May 2017 by Graham Beck