Lancaster clinched the title with a convincing 6-0 demolition of Keele on a day which summed up the success they have enjoyed this season.
The team came into the fixture on an undefeated run of twenty three games, an amazing achievement at any level. They had secured promotion a few games previously, but second place Bangor (only a few points behind and with a superior goal difference) were still in contention for the top honours unless Lancaster could beat a Keele side who were toiling near the bottom of the league.
The away side started brightly for the opening exchanges of the match, taking the game to Lancaster. They had an effort cleared off the line after eight minutes, and were unlucky not to score from a penalty corner soon after.
It did not take Lancaster long to get into gear though, and it was them who opened the scoring on ten minutes when Konni Klein worked well to create some space and fire in. From then on it never looked like Keele would overcome this Lancaster side riding high on confidence, and hungry for goals. The game was twenty four minutes in when Jack Palmer made it two with another unstoppable shot, this time into the corner of the goal.
It would have been three a few minutes later when the Keele keeper produced a fantastic save, the first of many, to deny Alex Halls. However there was nothing he could do when shortly after his team conceded a penalty corner. His save from the resultant set piece was parried to the left, allowing Lancaster to put a cross in for Klein to score again.
Following the goal one of the Keele players, who had already been given a warning green card for a bad tackle earlier on, ill advisedly started arguing with the match official. He was shown a yellow card for his trouble, meaning he was sin binned for the opening period of the second half.
Lancaster wasted no time in making the most of this numerical advantage as they started the half very strongly. They should have made it four one minute after the break, but they failed to find an end product after the ball had been passed expertly into the box. They made up for this just one minute later when captain Lyam Hollis crossed into the centre of the penalty area. The defender should have dealt with it better, and his failure to clear gifted an opportunity to Alex Halls, who did not think twice before slamming the ball past the keeper.
With the result all but secure now, Lancaster began playing some lovely hockey, completely dominating the midfield and restricting Keele from forming any sort of challenge. Soon four became five as Hollis, the team’s top scorer this year, dived in to deflect the ball into the net.
With the match, promotion and now the title all secured, Lancaster briefly became complacent, and the defence switched off to allow the Keele forward to run through on goal. He should have scored, but hit his shot tamely at the keeper, who blocked to ensure he kept a clean sheet (something that the team have not managed in a few games). The opportunity was their last sniff at goal.
Lancaster wrapped up the victory on sixty minutes when Hollis got his second, and his team’s sixth, with a fine drag flick that went over the keeper into the roof of the net. They were content to see out the match then with long stretches of possession, creating a few more half chances that were hit narrowly wide.
Hollis spoke to SCAN on the teams success. He said: “We are ecstatic with our achievements this season. We hope to keep on winning next year and see what happens.”