The scene was set for a classic finish to a badly interrupted season as Senators knew that a victory in their last league game would seal the Championship before moving on to the London League next season.
A major panic on Thursday evening over double booked pitches let to a flurry of last minute re-arrangements, but luckily we could secure a slot on the infamous Lawless Field at Teddies. Players and officials had little trouble getting there, but the 23 supporters buses that were filled to overflowing were struggling negotiating the twisty bends around the ground and unfortunately got stuck on the various speed bumps, leaving only a rowdy hardcore of groupies to support the Senators in their quest.
As all other Havant teams had already finished their leagues, they turned up with 16 very fit and young veterans eager to help their Hampshire neighbours Winchester to an unlikely title by thwarting our efforts in this final game of the season. And as the gap at the top was only 2 points, we knew that anything less than a victory would leave us with serious egg on our faces.
Senators welcomed back Player of the Year Baldock, who's new scruffy look gave him a much more menacing appearance. And with Pablo and JP restored to the starting line-up, the midfield looked as strong as ever. Unfortunately Scraggy had to bail out with man-flu and could barely manage a Lemsip when stronger stuff was required and Dunners was read the riot act by his misses who threatened imminent divorce if their planned smutty weekend away was delayed by turning up sweaty and half-cut after a game. With his Senators' credentials thus challenged he did the only thing a man could do in the circumstances: give in and slink off to Devon quietly!
The remaining 13 heroes started poorly in a sluggish first half. Lack of regular hockey showed by reacting slowly to any breakdown in play and our normal smooth passing game was missing. Havant had the better of the half, although at 0-0 there was everything to play for in the last 35 minutes. Goalscoring machine Marky Mark sharpened his tools during the inspirational half-time team talk and Senators soon found themselves 1-0 ahead. Then followed a serious lap of concentration that saw our boys stare down the wrong side of the barrel with 20 minutes to go and 1-2 down. Would the efforts of an entire season be wasted by a defeat to a bunch of National League rejects from the South?? Even the thought of sacrificing one of the team's mascots was contemplated as surely the end would justify the means?
Cometh the time, cometh the man, or in this case the men. The prospect of having to explain how we threw the Championship away on the final day of the season drove the team forward and every player stepped up a gear, demonstrating why we have been the best team all season. Every last bit of energy was summoned from hitherto unknown depths of character and a transformation happened that will go into Senator folklore. Not just one goal was produced, but 4 unanswered lightning strikes by the club's most prolific goalscorer ensured a famous and deserved turnaround with Senators celebrating the Championship in style at the end.
Jubilant scenes at Teddies were followed by an old style car-park celebration. And with bragging rights secured there was nothing left but to go to the club and celebrate our 2nd trophy in 2 years over copious pints of ale, lager and J2O!
What a game, what a day, what a season, what a team!!!Thanks to Clive Jones for the photos.