Champion Old Loughts seal National League return
PUBLISHED: 11:29 26 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:30 27 March 2017
Old Loughtonians 3 Peterborough 1
Old Loughtonians clinched the East Premier A title and a return to the National League with a deserved win against fellow hopefuls Peterborough in front of an excited home crowd.
Second-half goals from George Lilley, Shane Martin and Martyn Lear sealed victory for the hosts, after a tense and scoreless opening half, to complete a club double following the women’s seconds own promotion earlier in the day.
And Loughts can now look forward to their summer break, before rejoining the Conference East for the 2017/18 campaign.
The home side went into the match with a three-point lead at the top of the table, following a key win at St Albans a week earlier, and Martin saw an early reverse-stick strike kicked out by visiting keeper Cam Goodey, after Luca Grossman had created the chance.
A long aerial pass almost found Manish Patel at the other end, but Kevin Ross then produced a good run and cross that was kicked away by Goodey, with Grossman’s follow-up attempt also denied.
However, Loughts were grateful to a diving goalline clearance from Tom Stumbke on 15 minutes, after Peterborough’s Alex Armstrong almost converted from the first short corner of the game.
Buoyed by that near miss, the visitors continued to press, but Robert Bloss and captain Ian Swallow held firm at the back for Loughts.
A good run by Will Hopkins won the hosts their first short corner of the match, with Martin seeing his drag flick saved, before Peterborough’s Joe Finding was thwarted by vocal Loughts keeper Fred Whitfield from another set-piece.
Will Smith was shown a green card late in the first half for a stick tackle, but Loughts saw Harry Kempe’s reverse-stick effort thud into the pads of Goodey at the near post before Peterborough sent a short corner wide from the last play.
The second half was barely a minute old when Loughts broke the deadlock as Hopkins won another short corner and Lilley deflected home Martin’s pass from the top of the D.
But the home side’s joy was shortlived as third-placed Peterborough replied almost immediately to level things up once again.
Loughts regained the lead on 42 minutes, though, as Martin converted a short corner with a drag flick and they had a good chance of a third soon after as Ross broke on the left wing from Martin’s pass, but fired a reverse-stick shot into the side netting with Mitchell Jones waiting for a centre in the D.
Martin then rounded Goodey on another Loughts counter-attack, but sent his reverse-stick shot wide of the far post, but it was 3-1 soon after as Rory Coltham produced a stunning run through midfield and picked out Martin at the top of the D and he sent a clever pass to Lear, who deflected the ball home from close range.
Peterborough enjoyed a spell of pressure as they looked to respond, but Loughts were in no mood to let slip and could have added to the scoreline late on, when the visitors removed Goodey for an extra outfield player.
Ross and Lear both shot wide of the empty Peterborough goal in the closing minutes, but it did not matter in the end as Loughts – rocked by the tragic death of 22-year-old Tom Wilson in December 2015 – claimed the points to clinch the title and their place back among hockey’s elite.
Old Loughts: Fred Whitfield, Robert Bloss, Will Smith, Shane Martin, George Lilley, Tom Stumbke, Ian Swallow, Martyn Lear, Harry Kempe, Elliott Smith, Mitchell Jones, Will Hopkins, Kevin Ross, Luca Grossman, Stuart Goodman, Jonny Sloman, Pat Longson, Geoff Purnell, Rory Coltham, Owen McLaughlin. Manager: Gerry Smith. Coach: Mike Williamson.