Essex qualify for National Finals

ESSEX Under-17 boys have qualified to represent the East of England at the National Hockey Finals next month following a sensational and well-deserved set of results.

ESSEX Under-17 boys have qualified to represent the East of England at the National Hockey Finals next month following a sensational and well-deserved set of results.

In sleet and hail showers at Coopers Company & Coborn school in February the squad defeated Suffolk 4-1. First half goals from James Byford and Mitch Jones saw half-time at 2-0. Suffolk pulled one back early in the second half but goals from Ben Parker and Mitch Jones produced a comfortable victory against last year's U16 champions.

The second match saw another comfortable win against a Norfolk side that was reduced to 10 players following injuries. One goal up at half-time thanks to a Harry Kempe goal, Kempe, Steve Edwards and Andy Ross all scored in the second half.

The final round of matches was played on March 8 at Bedford Hockey Centre, with driving rain and sleet that causing match delays.


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First up were Lincs, who were near the bottom of the table, but gave Essex a hard time. Having gone ahead in the first half through a goal from Andy Ross, Lincs pulled one back mid-way through the second half to make life difficult until James Byford netted a second Essex goal with six minutes to play.

The second was the crunch match against close contenders Cambridge, with Cambridge going ahead in the first minute thanks to poor marking by Essex. Order was restored in the fourth, sixth and 17th minutes with goals from Sam Rayner (2) and Harry Kempe, before Cambridge got their act together and scored twice to level the scores at half-time. The second half was very lively with chances at both ends but Essex deserved their win from Mitch Jones goal mid-way through the half.

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Norfolk then became the only side that could pip Essex to the Championship but contrived to only draw with Cambridge, meaning that Essex were champions with a game in hand.

The final match of the day saw a jubilant Essex side have an easy win against Herts. Two goals up thanks to goals from Sam Rayner and Mitch Jones, Herts scored a breakaway goal to make the half-time score 2-1. The second half was one-way traffic with goals from Chirs Campbell (2) on his debut, Andy Ross and Mitch Jones providing the final 6-1 victory.

Match summary: Played 5, Won 5, Goals for 20, against 6, Points 15.

Essex will now travel to Bowden Hockey Club in April for the National Finals.

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