Jamie Busbridge said the over-riding emotion was one of relief after South Saxons Hockey Club’s men’s first team was crowned league champions.
Saxons clinched the Sussex Open Hockey League Division One title courtesy of a come-from-behind 4-1 victory at home to East Grinstead III last weekend.
Their captain Busbridge said: “After the game we were fairly subdued, I think the feeling was more relief than anything.”
Saxons finished level on points with runners-up Southwick, but their vastly superior goal difference gave them the edge. Saxons scored 90 goals in their 22 matches.
“I don’t think you finish top without deserving it,” continued Busbridge. “It was only on goal difference, but we did score significantly more goals than Southwick and I think that does show we were the best side over the season.”
Saxons led the way for much of the season and enjoyed a healthy cushion at the festive break having won 10 and drawn one of their first 11 matches.
They suffered four defeats, however, during the second half of the campaign - all by 2-1 scorelines - and the last one, against Southwick (their only home loss all term), put them three points behind their title rivals.
Southwick had won 11 consecutive games at that point, but a surprise 1-0 loss at home to Horsham III in their next match handed the initiative back to Saxons, who won their final three fixtures to come out on top.
Asked if he felt Saxons had blown their chances after losing to Southwick, Busbridge said: “Definitely. They had won every game since November and you didn’t see them dropping points (in their final three fixtures). At Crawley (in Saxons’ third-to-last game), we were thinking about securing the play-off place (for finishing second).”
Saxons accrued 18 more points, seven more wins and 25 more goals than they managed during their fourth place finish last season when they were excellent at home, but struggled away.
“There have been good individuals in the past, but we’ve come together as a team this year,” added Busbridge, who singled out the comeback 4-3 win at home to then leaders Hailsham in November and February’s 5-3 success at home to Penguin as particularly key results.
“Alex Coombs is the third top scorer in the league and Olli Beal’s goals were vital as well, but the goals were coming from all over the pitch rather than relying on a couple of people.”
Saxons’ reward is a place in South Hockey League Kent/Sussex - Regional 2 next season and they will be eager to avoid a repeat of their relegation in 2013/14 - a year after they previously won the Sussex title.
“The standard does jump up quite a bit,” said Busbridge, who plans to work on his fitness over the summer in an effort to avoid the injury problems which have plagued his second season as captain.
“The teams that went up from our league last year (Eastbourne II and Crowborough) are coming straight down so it’s not easy to make the step up, but there’s the potential of one or two players coming back to the club.”
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