West Herts Hockey Club’s men’s side made history on Saturday as they sealed promotion to National Hockey League Conference East. It’s an achievement which left the players overjoyed and relieved, according to captain Matt Buckland.
The Stags knew the East Premier A title had effectively been won due to their superior points and goal difference over second placed Harleston Magpies, but they didn’t let complacency into their game.
Goals from Shea O’Sullivan, Dan Webster (2), Jason Mallory and Aaron Mitchell clinched a 5-2 win over Wisbech at the weekend and rounded off an impressive campaign.
“It will be the first time the club has had a team playing at National League level,” Buckland said. “Promotion will put us up there with the top 50 clubs in the country, so hopefully it will have an impact throughout the club.
“We’re just overjoyed and relieved to have gained promotion. We came close a couple of years ago but weren’t able to do it.”
The majority of the West Herts side will have two months off before preparations begin for their first Conference East campaign in July. Buckland, who joined the Stags six years ago and is in his second season as captain, admitted the step up in quality will not be easy.
“The pace of the game will increase,” he said. “You watch higher level hockey and you think ‘what would I do in that situation’, now we have the chance to find out.
“It won’t be easy. We’re getting to the level now where players are getting paid but that won’t be the case for us, we’ll be staying amateur.”
Buckland, 27, said the squad will need bolstering but added the players who secured promotion deserve their chance to shine.
He explained: “We have a squad of around 15 players, I think we may need to add four or five more to that and we are an attractive club for players.
“The guys who helped us get promoted have earned the chance to prove themselves in the Conference East though and we have some very good players here.
“The quality is definitely there, it will just be a case of working hard and coming up with good game plans.”
Meanwhile, the Stags’ ladies team rounded off their Premier Division season with a 4-0 win against Broxbourne at Mill Lane.
The result means West Herts finished fourth in the table, their best ever placing in the division.
The men’s seconds lost 3-2 against Harpenden in Division One, the thirds completed a 2-1 victory against Welwyn Garden City in Division Three SW and the fourths overcame Bishop’s Stortford Thirds in Division Four SW.
The fifths drew 2-2 with Berkhamsted & Hemel Hempstead Seconds in Division Five SW, the sixths defeated Hertford Fourths 2-0 in Division Eight SW and the sevenths beat Berko and Hemel 3-0 in Division Nine SW.
The ladies’ seconds lost 2-1 to Tring in Five Counties Premier but the thirds won 3-1 at Hertford in Five Counties One.