Leadenham Hockey Club’s clean sweep streak came to an end on Saturday but the club still had plenty to celebrate as the men’s second team secured their first championship win.
An away trip to experienced Alford presented an intimidating match up, particularly after recent injuries forced several changes to the squad.
A goal after 57 seconds for the visitors certainly eased any fears, though, and set the tone for a performance befitting that of champions elect.
On the rare forays out of their half, the home team’s attacks were capably mopped up by Jason Tholen and Paul Cullen, with the ball quickly recycled into Leadenham’s attacking third as the visitors went into half-time 5-0 up.
The second half continued in much the same vein, but the hosts began to exploit Leadenham’s high line, forcing them to drop deeper and giving Alford’s beleaguered defence some respite.
A penalty flick was awarded midway through the half when an Alford player used his body to block a shot on the goal-line, allowing James Ireland to take his goal total to four; an impressive feat after his limited recovery time from a hamstring strain.
The match finished 9-0 to confirm Leadenham’s promotion and title.
The goalscorers were James Ireland (4), Dale Line, Jack Cullen, Ben Huggins, Andy Carter and Henry Young.
* Leadenham Ladies also picked up a win against Alford to take them within a point of league leaders Bourne whom they face on Saturday.
A strong first-half saw Leadenham go 4-0 up before half-time, as their passing skill broke down Alford’s resilient back-line.
Captain Sophie Walker capitalised on a penalty corner to net a rare goal, allied to a Katie Ireland brace and Emily Smith’s neat flick.
Leadenham began to tire in the second half and their pace dropped, but they extended their lead through Sophie Gretton.
The industrious midfield allowed Leadenham to see out the rest of the game, giving young goalkeeper Millie Armond her eighth clean sheet of the season, and set up an exciting clash against the leaders.
But there were defeats for the other sides.
Nathan Chambers bagged a consolation as the men’s first team fell to a 5-1 defeat against March Town, but they retained an eight-point advantage over Cambridge City Vets as they look to avoid relegation.
A strong showing from a young Third XI ended with a 4-2 loss against Louth.
Max Cullen and Nick Turner both converted penalty corners.
Leadenham thanks all of their umpires, supporters, opponents and club sponsors Mountains Skip Hire.