The impossible dream very nearly became reality as the Matlock Baileans seconds only just failed to gain promotion by two points.
Captain Claire Stevenson was more than proud of her team.
“Our coach Jon Barry set his target on avoiding relegation. We set our target on promotion and nearly proved him wrong. If we hadn’t lost key players to work commitments and injury on the penultimate weekend, we would have clinched the title.
“We ended up with the best goal difference in the league and in our final league game of the season, we thrashed second-placed Northampton Saints 6-3, to claim the runners-up spot for ourselves.
“Sarah Evans capped a fine season with a stunning hat-trick, leaving her on 18 goals, claiming the Golden Boot as the league’s leading goalscorer. Ruth Whittiker returned after long term injury, to look fitter and play better hockey than when she last appeared in the first team ten years ago.
“Veteran Gilly Beacham put in another outstanding and inspiring shift in midfield and Maz Cowie, when not skiing, did likewise. Charlotte Horton, recruited from the 4th team, and made the left back position her own, while Dib Moore marshalled the best defence in the league. Goalkeeper Chris Poyser, who should have retired back in 1966, was again magnificent and won a couple of matches singlehandedly.”
She went on: “Of the youngsters, Holly Smedley had a steady season at right back while Rebecca ‘Meado’ made good progress towards a first team place. New signing Fran Bottomley proved a valuable acquisition at a time when Vicky Hammond got promoted to the first team and Frankie Spencer got injured. Spencer at that point was clearly the most improved player of the season. Betty Tang was also a late signing at Christmas while the second team was forced into using 27 different players during the season”.
Coach Jon Barry went on to add: “This season has been a weird one. On occasions, I thought I was watching Brazil. Then there were times I thought I was watching Brassington Old Girls. At times, we played some brilliant hockey and, after Christmas, we gave everyone a good hiding.
“This is all the more remarkable when the attendance at training has been shocking. This proves the success of the season is entirely down to the quality of the squad, not to do with the quality of the coach!”