Old Loughtonians star vows to be a Wembley winner

Super sixes National Indoor Hockey Finals - East Grinstead 8 Old Loughtonians 3

OLIVER DIDHAM is determined to return to Wembley Arena and help Old Loughtonians win the National Indoor Hockey title, after his side were beaten at the semi-final stage in Sunday’s super sixes finals.

The Luxborough Lane side have not won the trophy since 2000 and were always going to find it tough against pre-tournament favourites and reigning champions East Grinstead.

Didham struck in the third minute to give his side a surprise lead, but they were soon pegged back and were eventually overpowered by their opponents boasting a side full of international players.

Despite the defeat, Didham enjoyed his latest trip to Wembley and is convinced his side are capable of claiming their fourth indoor crown sooner rather than later.

“I’ve been to finals day three of the last four years with Loughts and we will get to a final and we will win it one year,” he said.

“It was really well put on, it really got us going, the atmosphere and the buzz before the game was fantastic. This is why we play.

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“It’s so different for us. We get great crowds when people come down to Loughts, but this is something special, it’s something different.

“Our team’s quality, but the players we’re playing against are really, really good and then you reflect and think actually we did really well and hopefully we’ll take that momentum through to the outdoor season and get promoted, because that’s our ultimate aim.”

After Didham had opened the scoring, East Grinstead soon hit back when David De Prez powered in the first of his four goals.

Barry Middleton’s goal handed EG the lead after seven minutes, but they were denied a third seconds after the restart thanks to some goalkeeping heroics from England indoor international Stuart Hendy.

An infringement in the midst of a wonderful triple save handed Michael Holland the chance to extend his side’s lead with a penalty stroke, but a fine save from Hendy, diving low to his left, kept East Grinstead at bay.

As Old Loughts pressed for an equaliser, De Prez took full advantage, tapping in Darren Cheesman’s pass to put EG 3-1 in front and two minutes later it was four, when Glenn Kirkham fed Niall Stott from a penalty corner to give EG a commanding lead at the interval.

Shortly after half time, De Prez completed his hat-trick, finishing off a fine team move.

They were denied a fifth thanks to Adam Miller’s spectacular goal-line clearance, diving at full stretch to deny Kirkham, which seemed to give Loughts a renewed belief, which they turned into a second goal on 27 minutes.

Canadian international Scott Sandison intercepted on the half-way line, found Josh Godfrey in space on the right and his pin-point cross was powered home by skipper Alistair Bray.

But hopes of a momentous fight-back were shortlived, with a quick-fire double from Mats Grambusch and a goal from Barry Middleton extending EG’s lead.

On 33 minutes Didham grabbed his second of the game, with an excellent solo effort as he ran from right to left before creating an angle to fire past Richard Potton.

The scoring was completed four minutes from time, when De Prez netted his fourth and EG’s eighth as Old Loughts brave effort proved not to be enough against a dominant East Grinstead.

“We started pretty well, but the difference was we didn’t execute our chances as much as they did, they’re a quality team and we made a few mistakes, but we worked really hard,” said Didham.

“We play as a team. They’ve got some incredible individuals, some really skilful players and we as individuals might not be as good, but we go on with the attitude that we can do really, really well.

“We’re a young bunch of guys, we’ve got some new indoor players and all in all the season was pretty good and we were happy to get to the finals.”

In the day’s second semi-final Beeston required penalty flicks to beat Reading, after the sides drew 3-3 in normal time, but East Grinstead were crowned champions as they beat Beeston 8-5 in an entertaining final. Bowdon Hightown won the women’s event on penalty flicks after a thrilling 5-5 draw with Reading.