Team Bath Buccaneers’ brave bid for promotion to the EHL Men’s Premier Division may have fallen short over the weekend but Hockey Development Manager Nick Kendall says it has still been a highly-encouraging season at the University of Bath.
Men’s Conference West champions Buccs finished third in the end-of-season promotion play-offs behind strong opposition from Canterbury and Holcombe.
However, they showed real quality in Saturday’s 5-3 victory over Conference North winners Bowdon at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre and Kendall said the team should be proud of their efforts.
“We played very well over the weekend and it has been a good season overall,” he said.
“We won the league for the first time in three years and were only beaten once in the regular season. We then played as well as we could in the play-offs against some very strong teams.
“Canterbury were better than we thought they would be – usually the Premier League team goes into the play-offs on a losing run but they were actually the form side after Christmas – and Holcombe have six internationals.
“We couldn’t have asked for any more from them. This is the fourth time we have missed out in the play-offs but we will go again next year.”
Having lost 7-1 to Canterbury in the opening play-off match a fortnight ago, Buccs went into Saturday’s game against Bowdon knowing they had to win.
And they did just that after producing an outstanding first-half performance, which saw them race into a 4-1 lead.
Tim Davenport’s low drag-flick was cancelled out by a carbon-copy reply from Bowden’s Mike Shaw.
However, Davenport restored the lead from a 19th-minute penalty corner before two superbly-worked goals from James Corry and Nic Reiger gave Buccs a healthy advantage.
Shaw halved the deficit 19 minutes into the second half but Matt Boote finished off a well-worked penalty corner routine to secure victory for Buccs, meaning Dave Egerton’s late goal was little more than a consolation for Bowdon.
Victory meant Buccs were just a point behind Canterbury and Holcombe going into the final match.
However, Conference East champions Holcombe proved to be too strong in the decisive encounter and ran out 5-1 winners to secure promotion to the Premier League.
James Steadman and David Appleton gave Holcombe a 2-0 lead at half-time, albeit with the second goal coming in controversial circumstances when a free hit was taken using a moving ball.
Stephane Vehrle-Smith added a third after the break but Buccs gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Ben Stone replied, deflecting Liam Sanford’s cross past George Pinner.
Gareth Andrew instantly restored the three-goal cushion, however, before Steadman completed the scoring.
Despite the disappointment, Kendall said it had been another positive season of hockey at the University of Bath.
“We are starting to show real strength in depth, which is very encouraging and a trend that I think will continue looking at the intake for next year,” he said.
“The Buccs men’s A team enjoyed their highest-ever finish in the Davis Wood League and the B team got promoted.
“The ladies finished third in the West Clubs League Premier Division but they are building and I’m sure will get back in the National League in the next year or two.
“The great thing was that the 2nds, 3rds and 5ths were all promoted, so there is real depth in the ladies’ squad.
“With the University of Bath BUCS teams, the men won the Southern Premier Division for only the second time and the 2nds were promoted back to the level they should be at.”
Buccs have also been competitive at junior level and will host the U14 Boys’ Tier 2 finals on Sunday, with the home side looking to progress to the national finals in May.
The under-10s are also in the West Mini Hockey finals.