Last Sunday, 2nd June, saw Lincolnshire win the England Hockey County Championship for Men at Wakefield Hockey Club. Having qualified in the Preliminary Round at Doncaster Hockey Club on the weekend of 11th & 12th May in beating the hosts Yorkshire 3-1, Staffordshire 4-1, Hertfordshire 10-0, but losing 5-0 to a fresher Lancashire side in their last game. They went through as runners up of Division A, Pool 1 by a one goal difference to Staffordshire and on to the Finals Day at Wakefield H C, who boast two waterbased artificial grass pitches. Lincs were drawn against the Pool 2 winners, Sussex, in their semi-final. The county had been very fortunate in securing the services of England and Great Britain international Glenn Kirkham, who captained the side, but this was by no means a one player team. The side was based around many players born and raised through club hockey in Lincolnshire moving on, in some cases, to National League sides throughout England and Wales.
Kirkham led by example and marshalled the side with the experience of one who has played at the highest level in the sport, but support from other experienced members David Appleton, Simon Miles and Jonny Bryan, who all played in the successful National Champions Lincs Under 21 side of 2001, was also necessary for Lincs to reap the rewards. Lincs dominated most of the game, so much so that in the first half the Lincs goal-keeper, Chris Vine, never touched the ball. Despite having all the pressure Lincs could only score the single goal of the game with a brilliant move down the left from Bryan to Ben Read, who crossed the ball early for Stuart Cunnington to deflect home for a very well taken deciding goal.
In the final Lincolnshire were drawn against Staffordshire for the second time in the tournament, with them having disposed of Shropshire in their semi-final. Despite the fact that Staffs had strengthened their team from Doncaster with more Cannock H C National League players, Lincs were not going to be overawed. Kirkham worked his magic with the squad, giving them the support and confidence that they could succeed and get something from the match, but it was Staffs who started the better and won a number of penalty corners in the first 10 minutes which Lincs defended really well. Eventually the tide turned and it was Lincs in the ascendancy when on 11 minutes Appleton was on hand to slip the ball past the Staffs goalkeeper to give Lincs the lead. Our local county side was now playing the better hockey, but at this level there is always a chance of the other team going level. Lincs held out well and just before halftime they doubled their score with a well taken low drag flick from Cunnington at a penalty corner.
2 – 0 and Lincs were on a roll, starting the second half how they had ended the first, in command. Even so, they were still vulnerable to some very positive Staffordshire attacks, but their game was often limited due to players with individual flare not passing soon enough. After 45 minutes Staffs clawed one back to make it 2 – 1 through Inderpal Soor, and through Lincs’ first error of poor marking. Great play from Greg Nolan in holding the ball and by the Lincs midfield of Kirkham, David Appleton, Andy Appleton and the tireless, David Dykes, Lincs still dominated the midfield and with a range of substitutes being used, Lincs were now well on top. In came as no surprise when David Appleton scored his second after 65 minutes to secure the game for Lincolnshire, with a blistering reverse stick shot into the roof of the net, which the keeper just did not see. The last 10 minutes had Lincs keeping possession and giving Staffs little chance of scoring again, and our local county team carried the spoils to the end as the deserved winners.
A fantstic achievement by our players who four tournaments ago won the C Division Final, and were beaten finalists in the B Divison Final last year, securing promotion to the top A Division for this year and then going on to win the accolade of top county in England.
Squad as per photograph:
(Back Row) Andy Wright (Physio), Tony Perrin (Manager), Chris Vine (GK), Tom White, Adam Bull, Stuart Cunnington, Ross Booth, Jonny Bryan, Simon Miles, John Cunnington (Ass. Manager)
(Front Row) Sam Temple-Baxter, Greg Nolan, James Wright, Ben Read, Glenn Kirkham, David Appleton, David Dykes, Andy Appleton, Steve Rigby