Chi edge past Gymkhana to avoid the drop - for now
Chichester Priory Park Hockey Club's Mens' side gave themselves a National Conference West League lifeline with a 1-0 win over Indian Gymkhana.
There was huge pressure on Chi as they went into the final day bottom-of-the-table and needing to better Guildford’s result to remain in the division on Saturday.
Priory Park managed to secure their end of the deal with a final-day triumph, but a nervous wait ensued as they needed to know how Guildford got on.
Fortunately for Chi, their nearest rivals were held to a 0-0 draw with Cheltenham, meaning they went down, and Priory Park earned themsleves a play-off in their quest to remain a Mens’ Conference West National League side.
Chi are yet to find out who they will play in that play-off game in April but will go into with confidence following a fine final-day effort.
Regardless of league position, Chichester wanted to end the season on a high and pick up a valuable success.
This was visible in the first ten minutes as Priory Park completely dominated.
Chi played with pace and physicality that forced frequent player rotation. It was great to see home-grown talent like Louis Gibbons assert his authority on the game.
With the possession and chances they had, it was only a matter of time until Priory Park broke the deadlock.
That all important opening strike came mid-way through the first half as Luke Emmett netted. He received the ball with his back to goal, before turning to deliver a thunderous strike that even former GB goalkeeper Simon Mason couldn’t save.
Chi started with the same fast-paced tempo in the second with Emmett and Ben Palmer a little unlucky not to add to the lead.
Failure to get a killer second left them defending for their National West safety in the closing stages.
Gymkhana went all out for a leveller in the closing stages but Chi stood firm to give them faint hope.
It was a case of waiting from that point but when they discovered Guildford had been held the home side erupted into cheers.
Chi have no time to think about that relegation play-off with their Hockey Association Cup semi-final coming up on Sunday (2pm).
It will once again be a nervous and tough test for Priory Park as they come up against the current second best team in the country, Surbiton.
They are a league above and currently sit second in the Men’s Hockey Premier Division.
Surbiton trail league leaders Holcombe by seven points having both played 18 games.
Priory Park can make the trip to Sudgen Road full of confidence following their dramatic final day escape but know they have their work cut out.
CHI PP: Baxter, Brook, Collins, Cox, Emmett, Gibbons, Gough, Henn (C), Lerwill, McCarthy, Pacanowski, Palmer, Sewell, Sparshott, Thakore, Wallis.
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