Horsham reach new heights with long-awaited promotion

Promotion winning Horsham, back row: Al Campbell (manager), Noah Chinn, Jack Dean, Rob Turnbull, Chas Richardson, Ollie Yeomans, Dom Male (with Xavi), Joey Humphreys, Cirdec Atkinson, Richard Blakesley, Andrew Isaacs. Front: Matt Hough, Joh Burroughs, Freddie Campbell, Duncan Howarth (captain), Andy MacIlwraith, Dan Humphreys.
Promotion winning Horsham, back row: Al Campbell (manager), Noah Chinn, Jack Dean, Rob Turnbull, Chas Richardson, Ollie Yeomans, Dom Male (with Xavi), Joey Humphreys, Cirdec Atkinson, Richard Blakesley, Andrew Isaacs. Front: Matt Hough, Joh Burroughs, Freddie Campbell, Duncan Howarth (captain), Andy MacIlwraith, Dan Humphreys.

Horsham will play at their highest-ever level next season after securing promotion to South Premier Division 1 for the first time in their history.

They achieved the feat on the downs at Purley Walcountians on Saturday, reversing the form of the home fixture in December, with a consummate display of competitive hockey.

The victory seems them clinch the step up with a game left to play, but third-placed Tulse Hill & Dulwich can no longer catch them, finishing three points behind having completed their fixtures.

Similarly, Horsham cannot catch already-crowned champions London Edwardians, who lead the division by four points.

Victory has meant the players have taken Horsham men’s hockey to the third tier in England.

Anticipating a celebration, a fair crowd of supporters had travelled, but if this added to players’ nerves they were settled when Freddie Campbell, Jack Dean and John Burroughs combined to score within 34 seconds of the first whistle.

Campbell’s elegant aerial pass deep into the corner deceived the Purley right-back and Dean neatly collected, rode three tackles and fired in a shot. It may have been beating the keeper but Burroughs deflected the effort to make sure.

This dream start was followed by business as usual from the reliable side as Matt Hough converted a short corner to make it 2-0 at the turn.

A clever pass from Andy McIlwraith left Dean one-on-one with the keeper and the league’s top scorer duly obliged, while Burroughs scored a second to finish the job and seal their accomplishment.

This is the second promotion for the team in four years and coach Dom Male had fancied their chances from the get-go this season.

He said: “I felt in pre-season that this was a side that could beat everybody in the league – and so it has proved.

“We dropped silly points pre-Christmas but we are unbeaten in 2016 and the boys have fulfilled every expectation.”

Team manager Al Campbell said: “Speaking with the senior members at the club, and the players, I think the overall feeling at the club is of satisfaction that we have continued to progress at a steady rate since the club decided to invest in really good coaches.

“There has been a consistent and steady long-term plan and the expectation that a town like Horsham should have a team that plays hockey at this level. We’ve established a good team management structure and communications with the club in its broadest sense are excellent.

“We mustn’t of course understate the importance of the coaches who bring the colts through. People like Jack Dean, Dan Humpheys, Joey Humphreys and Noah Chinn have been playing since they were nippers.

“As, in actual fact, has the oldest guy in the team Dom Cohen who is now 39.”

Freddie and Rob Turnbull have been playing since Collyers days. John Burroughs is Horsham born and bred.

“So a lot of it is about commitment right across the board. Which is why it is satisfying - as they say, don’t you just love it when plan comes together.”

The team have one game left, against a Woking side scrapping to avoid relegation, at Broadbridge Heath this Saturday.