New coach, new pitch - it’s all happening for Chichester Hockey Club

New Chi HC men's coach Merijn Van Willigen / Picture by Mick Young
New Chi HC men's coach Merijn Van Willigen / Picture by Mick Young

A beautiful sunny day greeted the opening fixture of Chichester Hockey Club’s men’s first XI’s new season in the national Conference East.

And it was new beginnings as Chichester played their first league match at their new home pitch at Chichester College, which meant a big crowd.

This season has seen arrival of Dutch master Merijn van Willigen, previously at Reading, as coach. Alex Thakhore was unveiled as the new captain and Luke Emmett as the new vice-captain, meaning exciting times ahead at the most progressive club on the south coast.

Richmond started strongly though without any real attempts on goal. Chichester started to grow into the match as their confidence grew, largely built on the stout defending of the backline.

Break after break led to a goalmouth scrambles and the first goal of the season went to Andy Sparshott with a well-timed shot on the turn. The home team continued to prosper with more and more possession with a strong contribution from the whole squad as they rotated the players.

The second was a penalty flick confidently converted by Jamie Whitehouse after he was chopped down by a desperate Richmond defender.

At this stage last season Chichester would have started to wonder if they could hold on to their lead – but there’s a new confidence in the camp.

Man of the match Jack Lerwill, the defender extraordinaire, rolled back the years as he made a diving one-handed stop to a Richmond shot just before half-time.

Richmond’s bright spell led to penalty corner just before the break which they converted, making it 2-1 at half-time.

Chichester started the second half with a spring in their step and it wasn’long before they broke down the right for Alex Holton to cross to Ollie Baxter, who on his birthday calmly controlled the ball behind the defender and smashed a reverse shot high into the net for a 3-1 lead.

Richmond made a strong recovery with good possession for a 15-minute spell which saw them score another corner making it 3-2.

At this stage last season Chichester would have started to wonder if they could hold on to their lead – but there’s a new confidence in the camp and they held firm and could have had another penalty if the umpire had seen things differently.

* Chichester’s ladies’ first team started the league season with a 16-0 home win over Crawley in the Sussex Ladies’ League premier division.

Verena Sambel led the way with five goals and there were three for Patti Hyla and two for Cita Haines. Adding one each were Lottie Greenlees, Olivia Frances, Charlotte Cox, Jess Gleeson.

The ladies visit Hailsham this Saturday and are at home to Lewes on Saturday, October 7.

Middleton Ladies 3 Chichester Ladies IIs 2

The first game of the new season saw Chichester travel to Littlehampton to play Middleton with a squad that mixed experience and young blood but missing out by the odd goal in five.

The match started with the home side putting pressure on the Chi defence and the visitors’ remodelled side had their work cut out.

Middleton took advantage with two goals in the first 15 minutes.

Chi got their act together and started to gel, passing the ball better as the game went on but having to defend hard as the hosts kept pushing forward.

Chichester came up with a cracker of a goal as young Beanie Bradley broke up play down the right and passed to Sarah Jessop, who laid the ball off to Rachel Trent, who scored her first of the season. She only needs another 25 to beat her tally of last season...

Cheryl Parrott, the new captain, gave a good team talk at half-time and Chichester came out looking more organised with Xenia Trueman, Jenna Greenway and Alex Hurd all contributing.

Middleton managed to grab a third before Chi’s second came from Jessop. Her persistence and determination was the key.

Despite all their efforts Chi ran out of time – but the rest of the season looks bright if they can keep up the hard work.

Chi ladies 2nds: Kane, Parrott, Peake, Baxter, Austin, Jessop, Trent, Hurd, Binning, Gray, Greenway, Oliver-Catt, Bradley, Trueman.