Hockey: We’ve won the league and now we can take our place among the elite again

Hockey: We've won the league and now we can take our place among the elite again

TUNBRIDGE WELLS Men’s 1st XI went into the season with the objective of winning South League Kent & Sussex Regional Division One.

Now we return to the South Premier League, which we dropped out of two years ago. Many at the club feel we are finally back where we belong.

Whilst several players had moved on to university and other new ventures, the side retained its core group and welcomed some influential -additions, including Simon Hare and the returning David Judge.

It promised to be an open league and Wells were confident they would be one of the teams to beat.??The first half of the season saw them win eight out of 11 games, with some crushing scorelines including 8-3 versus Ashford and a 9-0 thrashing of hosts Crawley in their first meeting.

However, three slip-ups against Worthing, Maidstone and Folkestone meant that the side saw themselves sitting second at the Christmas break behind leaders Maidstone.

Although disappointed not to be top, Wells were well positioned to make an assault on the title in the new year. Early wins against Burnt Ash and Worthing set them up for a crucial away fixture against Maidstone.

In a tough, hard-fought game, it was Wells who emerged 3-2 winners and thereby usurped Maidstone at the summit.

Over the course of the next five games, Wells battled to keep top spot. The side dropped only two points and enjoyed fine victories over tough opponents including a 4-1 home defeat of Folkestone and a 3-1 win down by the sea in Eastbourne.

With three games to play, Wells found themselves needing only three points to secure the title for the second time in four seasons.

They failed at the first opportunity, losing a 6-5 thriller to the ever-dangerous Gore Court. Next they travelled to Ashford, who were battling for survival. Once again Wells slipped up, losing 4-3 and wondering if it was meant to be.

The whole season came down to a home fixture against Crawley. In brilliant sunshine at Kent College in Pembury, Wells dismissed any idea of nerves with a 13-0 hammering to cap a glorious season off in style.

Six goals came from outstanding Player-Coach Ben Allberry, who top-scored with 44 for the season, while James Beck picked up a hat-trick.

Kyle Matheison, Ben Brandt, Ali Clarke and Faris Al-Askari were also on the scoresheet. It was definitely mission accomplished.

Wells are indebted to a number of people at the club, but particular thanks goes to the influential Allberry, whose goals and coaching were pivotal.

Recognition should also go to Manager James Wattenbach, who selflessly gives his time, and assistant coach Vinnie Holden for his help at training and matches.

Wells now look forward to a summer of rest before the exciting challenge of competing in South Premier Division Two next season.

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