Report by Alastair Whatley
Southgate’s Men completed their season as champions in dominant style against Old Cranleighans with a 5-3 victory.
The sun finally returned to Trent Park on Sunday afternoon after a remarkable few weeks. John Sterlini returned to lead his team out as a busy balcony cheered out the boys in red and black. Despite the league season having effectively wrapped up last weekend, there was the hope that Kwan and his squad could finish how they started back in September with a 7-1 win over Brighton. Old Cranleighans have however enjoyed a strong second half to their season and were looking to halt the Southgate celebrations in mid flow.
In the end it took only 6 minutes for Kwan’s side to assert themselves on the game as John Sterlini to dropped an aerial deep into Cranleighan territory landing on the baseline for Matt Allister to deftly push it back to the P spot for Teague Marcano to flick the ball past Joshua Doble between the sticks with the hulk of Goliath into the top right corner.
But Cranleighan are nothing if not determined and within no less than 60 seconds they showed their attacking resolve with a well worked routine which saw the ball fed wide and left before being pulled back to the Gate P spot only to see the ball dragged into the far corner beating Ollie Wickens as the ball ricocheted hard against the backboard. 1-1.
Southgate however now had the bit between their feet and in the 13th minute a driving Marcano run led to a shot saved by the OC’s keeper only for Karan Sofat to slot home the defection at close range to send the team 2-1 up. It felt as if only seconds had passed before a remarkable passage in the 15th minute of play, which saw a cross field ball from Jose Hurtado, in his final game for the club, offer a razor sharp cross field ball to Matt Ramshaw. Ramshaw picked the ball up close to the half way line then promptly dribbled his way at pace into the middle of the pitch past three Cranleighan defenders only to find himself almost on the opposition baseline. Not done yet, he doggedly charged the goal, somehow coaxing the ball into the goal past a cacophony of white and orange. The crowd cheered, Ramshaw roared and we went into the first quarter break with a well worked 3-1 advantage.
In the dying embers of the second quarter Cranleighan won a penalty stroke which Will Heywood duly converted sending the ball low and left and thus the game went into half time looking much closer than perhaps it felt to the balcony supporters, the match poised at 3-2.
Yet further goals from a Marcano deflection in the 46th minute and a beautifully converted finish from Jose Hurtado in the 53rd minute put Southgate safely ahead. Hurtado’s goal was received with an ovation from the crowd and served as a fitting farewell to our Chilean international and ensured his MVP award post game. Cranleighan weren’t quite done yet though and managed to convert one of the few PC’s in the game to claw the game back to 5-3.
There was perhaps an end of season feel to the latter stages of the game, which due to the league being wrapped up last weekend was perhaps more a friendly than a traditional last week decider. That said there was plenty of niggle on both sides with a host of cards being awarded ensuring the balcony got end to end action with plenty of action. As the sun continued to rain down and the players came over to cheer the supporters the curtain came down on this remarkable season. Premiership hockey awaits Kwan and his charges who have played some outstanding hockey to finally escape the clutches of this notoriously difficult league. Teague Marcano became the league top scorer with an impressive 26 goals across 18 games with Charles Hamilton, Drew Burkin and Matt Ramshaw all contributing with 10 + goals each.
Some well deserved R&R follows with players split up across the globe before they return to the club in July for pre-season. Congratulations to the players, coaches and our thanks to all who have come down to cheer the team on their way to being crowned Champions. The Southgate Giant is on the move.