Champions Hampstead end 125th in fine style
- Credit: Archant
Hampstead & Westminster’s men were crowned champions of England at the Premier League Finals at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre to cap the club’s 125th anniversary season in style.
Matt Guise-Brown struck twice in the final against defending champions Surbiton, with Sam French firing into an empty net late on to seal a 3-1 win.
And it proved sweet revenge, having lost the 2018 final to Surbiton on penalties, with qualification for Europe secured by their 2-1 semi-final success against Beeston.
Rupert Shipperley and Will Calnan found the target on Saturday and captain Toby Roche said: “Beeston are a strong club, they always have been and always challenge, it’s not unknown.
“They had beaten us 1-0 in the league and their keeper had a great game that day and played pretty well again on Saturday.
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“Any semi-final, when it’s tight, is edge of the seat. It was neck and neck, 0-0 at half time, and when we did score we let them in at the other end.
“But after we scored again, they took their keeper off in the last few minutes and it was all hands on deck. We had a score to settle and it was pleasing to get goals from others, so we’re not just relying on Matt Guise-Brown.”
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Corner specialist Guise-Brown put Hampstead on top on Sunday with goals in the first and third quarters.
And after Tom Salisbury hit back to set up a tense finale, Hampstead player-coach Kwan Browne’s long pass found French to seal victory and start the celebrations.
Roche added: “Matt practises before training and at the end of training. He’s never happy with his own performance and puts a huge amount of time and effort into it.
“We have a few variations but it comes down to delivering on the day and he has done so when asked. Not enough can be said about his performance.
“Sunday night was pretty crazy. I’ve had ups and downs as captain but there has been a lot of hard work from a huge amount of people at the club.”
Roche reserved special praise for Brown, adding: “Before Kwan joined we’d try and avoid relegation and be the best of the rest, we’d never challenge for the league.
“We got to a few cup finals, but lost, and having lost on penalties last year it was amazing to get our hands on the trophy for the first time.”
The men’s success completed a memorable weekend for the club, as their women also clinched promotion to the Investec League Premier Division, following their East Conference title success.
The squad, coached by Olympic champion Kate Richardson-Walsh and Irish international Sarah Kelleher still have a cup final to play next month.
*See next week’s Ham & High for a special hockey pullout.