Harrogate Hockey Club's under-18s boys make history at National Championships
Harrogate Hockey Club’s under-18 boys made history at the weekend when they were crowned champions of England in dramatic fashion.
The Ainsty Road aces beat much-fancied Bath Buccaneers in the National Championship final, becoming the first boys’ side from the north of England to win the tournament.
“This was a ground-breaking achievement against all the odds,” reflected ‘Gate skipper Alfie Weaver, who is the only captain in the club’s history to lead a team to a tier one cup triumh.
“As players, we have worked so hard for over a decade to achieve this moment.
“It is incredible and too much to put into words. I had a tear in my eye at the end.”
Harrogate’s journey to the final began with a dramatic first-round penalty shoot-out win against Bowdon, a result that was followed by victories against Alderley Edge (6-1) and Derwent (3-1).
Due to the coronavirus crisis, the competition was then put on hold, but to the delight of all the semi-finalists, it eventually recommenced in late August.
A superb team performance then resulted in ‘Gate beating Reading 4-1 in their last-four showdown.
Harrogate did not begin particularly well against Bath in the final and fell behind early on. It took until late in the opening period, but Harrogate did manage to hit back before the interval courtesy of a well-worked goal.
Chris Carter picked out Thomas Nash, who plucked the ball on his reverse before driving into the circle and along the by-line to feed Hector Bowerman, who calmly fired low into the goal.
Bath went on to enjoy the better of the second half, though they were kept at bay by a combination of some resolute defending and fine goalkeeping from Dan Garlick.
The Buccaneers eventually broke through to make it 2-1, and with time almost up it appeared as though they were going to come out on top.
That was until two minutes from the final whistle when Ben Stewart was upended and England international Weaver made no mistake with the resulting penalty.
That late equaliser forced the tie into a shoot-out where an inspired Garlick saved four of the five penalties that he faced, while Weaver and Carter converted for ‘Gate to decide matters.
“I would like to thank all the support from Harrogate, ” added Weaver.
“ I would like to thank one per personespecially, Ally Sheldon without who, we would not have even played the semi-final. Her tenacity to help Harrogate get here should not be forgotten.”