Chichester hockey heroes set for cup final

Chichester celebrate their cup victory / Picture by Meg Goring

Chichester celebrate their cup victory / Picture by Meg Goring

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Chichester won 1-0 away to favourites Surbiton – currently the second-best team in the country – to make the final of the National Men’s Cup for the first time in the club’s history.

Surbiton have qualified for the premier-division play-offs in second place and Chichester have struggled this season having scraped into the relegation play-offs to stay in the West Conference.

The men from Kingsham travelled to Surbiton with nothing to lose. Surbiton were clear favourites but Chichester were not there just to make up the numbers and roll over.

Surbiton started brightly and quickly won a penalty corner, but it was superbly stopped on the line by Matt Cox with the help of his faceguard.

As expected, Surbiton pushed forward on a regular basis while Chichester were getting used to the pace of the game, but the early attacks met determined Chichester defence.

On 24 minutes, Jack Lerwill stole the ball in midfield and played in Cox, who took Chichester forward. He found Tom McCarthy, who had broken free of his marker and fired in a beautiful back-hand strike into the roof of the net.

No-one expected us to get this far and now we get to play against another great side in Beeston at the Olympic Park on Sunday, May 1.

This lifted the Chichester team even more and saw out the remainder of the half.

At the break, Chichester knew they had completed only half the job and one of the top teams in the country were going to throw everything at them.

Surbiton went for broke from the start of the second half and won a succession of early penalty corners.

Chichester’s Polish national goalkeeper, Macieja ‘Magic’ Pacanowskiego, was having the game of his life and saved everything coming his way.

The Chichester defence of Ben Palmer, Kieran Henn, Matt Sewell, Dan Brook and Paul Wallis were facing everything that was coming their way with pure defiance.

With Surbiton pressing forward, the midfield of Luke Emmett, Alex Thakore, Lerwill and rising star Louis Gibbons were breaking through the Surbiton midfield with ease and Chichester were unlucky not to score a second.

The frontline for Chichester consisted of Cox, Andrew Sparshott, Martin Gough, Ollie Baxter and McCarthy, all of whom were fantastic, and their positioning and chasing back started to frustrate the Surbiton back-line.

Every minute that ticked past saw Chichester grow in stature and determination, but as expected the final ten minutes was ‘backs-to-the-wall’ defending.

Another flurry of penalty corner wins came and went, but the final four penalty corners all missed the target, much to Chichester’s relief. Eventually the final whistle blew and exhausted Chichester celebrated.

From the players, a big thank-you went to the fantastic travelling support who easily outnumbered the home support. After five minutes an exuberant supporter called it, ‘We’re going to win 1-0’ – how right they were.

Chichester captain Kieran Henn said “No-one expected us to get this far and now we get to play against another great side in Beeston at the Olympic Park on Sunday, May 1.

“We have three cup finals coming up which includes two relegation play-off matches and I can’t wait. We’re not getting carried away. Of course we’re enjoying this achievement but we’ll be back to training on Tuesday and concentrating on our next task, which is to stay up.”

CHICHESTER: Pacanowskiego, Henn, Brook, Palmer, Sewell, Wallis, Lerwill, Thakore, Cox, Gibbons, Baxter, Gough, Sparshott, McCarthy, Emmett.

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