The Rutland Oaks secured promotion into the Leicester Mixed Hockey first division on Saturday, winning a tense hard fought game against second placed Forest Wanderers 3-2.
The Oaks stormed into a half time lead dominating the play, with the midfield and attackers pressing high into the Wanderers’ half and forcing the opposition back on to the top of their own D.
With the opposition reduced to playing long balls from the back their strong centre midfield was isolated and Rutland took advantage by moving the ball quickly to the wings and playing in the attackers into dangerous positions.
Warren Ginn scored Rutland’s first with a fine strike from the top of the D following a short corner. Lucy Ginn doubled the score with a magnificent solo run beating several defenders before rounding the stranded keeper and slotting the ball into the empty net.
Strong defence from Christine Stride, Tracey Taylor and Ben Chisholm ensured that any Wanderers attacks were quickly snuffed out.
The half time team talk from captain Tracey Taylor demanded that Rutland keep their focus on the game and not become fixated on the chance to win the title and back-to-back promotions.
The Oaks seemed to have heeded her call with Charlie Hamnett, Gregg Topping, Becky Barton proving a formidable shield across the middle of the pitch, intercepting balls and prompting a wave of attacks. Warren Ginn scored his second of the game to put the Oaks 3-0 up with 15 minutes to play.
With the game seemingly secured the Oaks midfield began to lose its shape as Wanderers threw caution to the wind and pushed everything they had forward.
Despite their increasing dominance in the middle the Oaks defence held strong, until a contentious moment when the Wanderers centre forward controlled the ball with his foot before slipping the ball past the keeper. With both sides waiting for the goal to be disallowed the Oaks were stunned to see the goal awarded.
With ten minutes to go the Oaks pulled everyone back to defend the lead. With five minutes left Wanderers scored again with a well worked goal by the right winger finding space and crossing to the on-rushing forward who made sufficient contact to steer the ball in.
The Oaks knowing that their title ambitions were at stake dug deep and some tactical hitting, by Ben Chisholm, into the bottom corners, kept driving the Wanderers back in to their own defensive third. The Oaks stayed strong and their goal wasn’t threatened again, although the final whistle came as much with a sense of relief as joy.
Forest Wanderers, despite the loss can still overtake the Oaks to finish top of the league but they will have to win their game in hand and hope Rutland slip up.
If Rutland win their last remaining game they will claim the title but the side are taking nothing for granted in what is sure to be a tough game against rivals Phoenix who will be keen to prevent the Oaks finishing as champions.
Regardless of the results in the final weekend, to win promotion in their first year in division two having been promoted last season is an impressive achievement and testament to the hard work of the players.
l Despite the Horseshoes beating the Barbarians 7-1 away from home on Saturday they were feeling downbeat as hope of the title slips away.
They have only lost two games all season and scored 89 goals but are three points behind the leaders Leicester Hospitals with one game to play. Hospitals have a better goal difference by six so in the unlikely event they lose it would take two remarkable results for the Horseshoes to win the league.