Life is just champion for Doncaster Hockey Club’s men’s first XI.
The Town Fields outfit secured an immediate return to Conference North at the weekend as they finished strongly to beat Whitley Bay and Tynemouth 5-2 as second-placed Oxton lost 3-2 at home to Leeds Gryphons.
With both teams being at home at the weekend, many people had predicted that the title race would go down to the wire. But Doncaster go into their last game six points clear.
“I wasn’t too surprised Oxton lost because you often get some strange results at this stage of the season; you only had to look at our 6-2 defeat at Brooklands the previous week,” said Doncaster manager Graeme Gibson.
The club’s win over their north-east rivals saw them finish the campaign with an unbeaten home record.
Only third-placed Preston, who also beat them on their travels, avoided defeat at Town Fields.
Gibson, who played for the club in their glory days in the top flight, says the side will return to the National League a stronger side than when they left it via the relegation play-offs at the end of last season.
“To be fair to the players, most of them stuck around even though we’d dropped out of the National League for the first time since 1988, and their loyalty has been rewarded,” he said.
“What’s good about the team at the moment is that we have a lot of Doncaster-born players. Some of the lads we’ve got in the side now have been at the club since they were ten or 11.
“There’s also a lot of young players in the squad with only four or five – including top-scorer Tim Shelley – in their late 20s or early 30s.
“Last season was probably a year too soon for some of them but they’ve now had another season of first-team hockey and hopefully they will have benefitted from that.
“If we can keep them at the club, and add another few players, possibly an Australian, then we should do okay next season. We’ll probably be looking at a mid-table spot.”