Horsham only needed one of their two weekend fixtures to secure their safety in South Premier Division 1.
With three points earned at Broadbridge Heath on Saturday, and results elsewhere going in their favour, they avoided relegation and secured their place in the third tier of English hockey.
They did so by right with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Milton Keyes.
Striker Ellis Woolley will once again grab the headlines following his second hat-trick in as many games. With 18 goals this term he now sits fourth in the league rankings. Overall, however, it was the combined effort of a team that has found a new faith in its ability.
Horsham set off brightly and never really took their foot off the gas. They opened the scoring within 10 minutes when John Burroughs’ stick skills drew the foul in the D, Woolley stepped up for the short corner, and his powerful flick low to the keeper’s left hit the back-board with a resounding thud.
Nerves steadied and five minutes before half-time Burroughs’ jinking run again fooled the visitors’ defence, this time his pass finding the stick of Zak Chinn’s who made short work of finding the net.
The second half proved to be more of the same, with coach Dom Male claiming the assist when his powerfully struck long pass found Woolley in the D for the deflection. At the death Male was again involved, winning yet another short corner for Woolley to convert.
In between Milton Keynes scored a rather soft goal, denying skipper Isaacs the clean sheet he really deserved, but the glory was all Horsham’s.
“We’ve been getting the calculator out on a weekly basis, working out the various permutations for staying up,’” manager Al Campbell said after the game.
“However the hard-fought point we won at Spencer last week gave us some breathing space and effectively put our survival back into our control with all the momentum on our side. It was a chance the boys seized with both hands and, whilst there are still games left, we can now start to look forward to next season.
Having secured next year’s place in the division the previous day, after a 10-week relegation fight, Horsham were understandably a little low on adrenalin for their Sunday clash against Guildfordians.
However, at the end of the day they ran out comfortable winners, albeit by the smallest of 2-1 margins.
Once top-flight and mighty, Guilfordians have proved to be the whipping boys of the league – a warning to all teams at this level that glory can be transitory.
Horsham, themselves struggling at Christmas when languishing in 11th place in a division of 12, have experienced the fine line between survival and ignominy.
Horsham opened the scoring after 10 minutes through Paddy Humphrey. Humphrey is an unusual name on both the score sheet and, indeed, the team sheet, having been called in from the second team.
Now virtually in his hockey dotage, his last first team goal came over three years ago when Horsham were originally promoted from Kent/Sussex League 1.
Sam Gill, whose clever flick netted Horsham’s second two minutes into the second half, is new to the squad this year.
At the start of the season coach Dom Male and skipper Andy Isaacs set the team a season’s target of 30 points. If they can win their final game, away to Henley this Saturday, they can total 28 overall, due to an impressive run that has seen them take 18 points out of a possible 30 since Christmas.
“We have only done the double over two teams this season,” Campbell commented after the game. “Once with bottom side Guildford, the other with Havant, who will be promoted. We have shown we can compete with anybody, but we have to build on what we learned this year to keep things more comfortable next.”