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HomeHOCKEYMen's indoor Championship reaches final climax

Men’s indoor Championship reaches final climax

Sevenoaks went into the second weekend of the indoor premier league knowing that one win would likely be enough to secure a top 4 finish and a place at finals day at the Copper Box at the end of January. In the first weekend Sevenoaks had won 4 from 4 to leave them sitting 2nd in the table behind Hampstead and Westminster on goal difference.

Up first Oaks faced Surbiton, and in a pulsating game, where there was never more than one goal in it, Oaks came out 5-4 victors with 2 goals from Rufus McNaught-Barrington and a goal each for Joe Naughalty, George Torry and David Smith. Despite being on 15 points, they weren’t quite guaranteed qualification for finals day at this point, but it would have taken a very strange set of results to see them not finish in the top 4.

In their second game of the day Oaks could have made 100% sure of their place in the top 4 with a win, and it looked like they were going to cruise to victory as they took a 3-0 lead over Wimbledon, with 2 goals from Naughalty and 1 from Duncan Parnis. With 7 minutes remaining it looked like Oaks might even keep a rare clean sheet, but Wimbledon removed their goalkeeper to play with 6 outfield players and some scintillating hockey saw them draw level at 3-3 heading into the last minute. Oaks had 2 penalty corners to take a 4-3 lead but failed to convert on both occasions and with 6 seconds remaining Wimbledon countered and won a controversial penalty corner as the final buzzer went. The set piece was played out and Wimbledon converted to inflict a first defeat on Oaks.

Before Oaks took to the pitch for their third game of the weekend, other results had gone in favour of Oaks meaning they had secured a place at finals day. Nonetheless the remaining games were important for their position in the top 4, which would determine their opposition on finals day. In another tense, nail biting game Oaks were leading 2-1 with 5 minutes remaining. The Oaks goals coming from Nick Barker and Joe Naughalty. Similar to Wimbledon in the previous game, East Grinstead removed their goalkeeper to chase the game. Despite some heroic goalkeeping from Richard Potton, EG did eventually equalise and subsequently took a 3-2 lead heading into the last minute. Oaks immediately hit back to make it 3-3 with a goal from David Smith. However, once again Oaks conceded a penalty corner in the last play of the game, and the corner was converted after the final whistle to leave the final score 4-3 to East Grinstead.

In their final game Oaks faced unbeaten league leaders Hampstead and Westminster. An end to end first half saw the sides level at 3-3 after only 11 minutes. With Oaks goals coming from McNaught-Barrington, Naughalty and Smith. Hampstead took the lead to make it 4-3 heading into the break. On the stroke of half-time Oaks were awarded a penalty corner – which wasn’t converted. Naughalty appeared to query an umpiring decision earning him a trip to the sin-bin, and Oaks would be a man down to start the second half. Hampstead took their keeper off to take advantage of their extra man and punished Oaks heavily scoring 4 goals in quick succession taking the game away from Oaks with the score at 8-4. The rest of the game played out with a goal apiece, the Oaks goal from McNaught-Barrington and the final score was 9-4 to Hampstead.

Once all games were played out Oaks finished in 3rd place in the table and will face second place Surbiton at finals day on 27th January. This is the 4th time in the last 5 seasons that Oaks have made it to finals day. On the previous 3 occasions they have failed to make it passed the semi-final, so they will be hoping that they can go further this year.



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