Brighton and Hove lost a two-goal lead and their place in South Clubs Women's League division one on Saturday as they suffered the agony of relegation on goal difference.
Bara Kavanova struck twice to put Brighton in control against Reading 2s at Blatchington, with the home side needing to win their final game of the season to be sure of staying up.
But with Reading hitting back to force a 2-2 draw, bottom club Maidenhead pulled off a 1-0 victory over Spencer to move level on points with Brighton but crucially above them on goal difference. It spelt the end of Brighton's two-year stay in division one and a sad end to a campaign which saw them win only three of their 22 league matches.
Brighton now face Horsham in the Sussex Cup final on April 13 at Hurstpierpoint College (1.45pm) in a bid to salvage something from their season.
With a second place finish in the Sussex premier division guaranteed, the 2s aimed to cap what has been a sensational season with a strong showing against East Grinstead, one of the toughest teams in the league, but went down 2-0 reports captain Nivene Raafat.
"As expected, EG were fast out the blocks, dominating the midfield and fielding three forwards who caused us endless headaches. There was some great link up play between Redders, Sam and Kelly in midfield, with Laura and Wilson distributing some stellar balls out to the wings. There were some promising runs into the East Grinstead D, but their back three defended solidly, making it impossible to find Jo and Becca up front.
"Most of the play was in midfield, but EG managed a breakaway goal halfway through the first half with a great run down the right and a superb strike from the top of the D. The same player got on the scoreboard moments later with an almost identical move.
"We started the second half with plenty of tenacity, with several near misses in front of goal. The EG keeper was called upon to deny Kelly from the P-spot, and Sam and Clare worked tirelessly to create opportunities but sadly to no avail. There was also no let up for our defence, with Amanda and Wendy called upon time and time again to frustrate EG’s midfielders.
"Player of the match Hannah P drew applause from the handful of spectators for a sublime mid-air clearance before getting tangled in some pitchside tubing trying to find the ball. Everyone began to struggle in the heat - a couple of EG players lay exhausted in the dugout - and although we battled to the last whistle, we just couldn’t find the goal.
"Frustrated not to come away with a win but we’re still immensely proud of the season we’ve had and the way we’ve played. Watch out Sussex prem, we’ll be back for you next year!"
The 3s completed a strong second-half of the season by seeing off bottom club Worthing 1s at home 4-1.
Christine Cawte reports: "The 3s final match of the season took place in near tropic weather as we took on Worthing under the blue skies of Blatch. Whilst watching earlier games in the sunshine/allowing our team mascot Gale to wee all over Afra’s bag, it was a time of reflection as to how far we have come as a team.
"It seems a world away since a dark and rainy December evening when we all met in closed Waitrose café to discuss how we were going to pull back the second half of the season and start winning games! And we did just that…
"Our match against Worthing further highlighted the growth in each and every one of us as individual players but most importantly as a cohesive, well-drilled and passionate team. After settling into the game in the stifling heat, we showed Worthing just how determined we were to gain a final three points.
"Our awesome defence - Beth, Metal, Vaughan, Alice and GK Emily- acted like a wall to any counter-attacks from Worthing and distributed the ball calmly to our midfielders - Kat, Ellen, Lizzie, Ciara, Fran, Afra - who ran tirelessly in the afternoon heat to keep a fast pace throughout the game.
"And soon the goals came thick and fast… First, Ang got one of her trademark deflections from Beth’s supersonic strikes into the D, then Christine converted another deflection to make the score 2-0 at half time.
"In the second half, the 3s were hungry for more goals and were soon rewarded as Postie smashed the ball into the goal after one of many beautifully linked passes between the midfielders and the forwards. As the final whistle was approaching, MoM Metal decided to crack out a danger run from inside our defensive 25 all the way down the entire length of the pitch, into the D before taking a strike which was helpfully tapped into the goal by Christine (sorry Metal) to secure a fourth goal and our final victory of the season.
"Yet again, a shout out goes to Wilson who continued to boss the art of being our side line manager. 2018-2019 has been the season of lemon drizzle cake, name aphasia (Bev? Alice Webb?), many team meetings in R-Bar (Vaughan’s second home), music playlists & the speakers, Juliet’s The Climb, Sam’s burlesque routine, SATNAV errors ... but most importantly the season we smashed it as a team!"
In division one the 4s also finished on a winning note, taking fifth place in the table with a 2-0 win over Lewes 3.
"The last game of the season looked like a tough one up against rivals Lewes on the hottest Saturday yet," reports Kate Smith. "The 4s got off to a great start with beautiful passing and switching the play. In the heat of the day, the team kept up the intensity and had some opportunities, eventually converting to take the lead with Cressie scoring, 1-0.
"The next 10 minutes saw Lou take a ball to her nose and a switch in positions with JP moving up front. Minutes later, some strong passing through the midfield and a fast pass to JP on the post took the 4s to a 2-0 lead. Going into the second half, we knew Lewes were going to up their game. They did exactly this but the 4s kept up the pace with fantastic defence and stopping several Lewes short corners.
"The game finished with a 2-0 win, ending my season as captain on a high. Big thanks to all the team and Ellie for her amazing match reports and support!"
With the pressure off, the 5s walloped South Downs 1 6-0 to end their campaign on a high.
"What a way to end the season!" exclaims outgoing captain Drinky. "Having safely secured our place in this new league just last weekend, we could really enjoy this fixture. And enjoy it we did. The hockey was hot! I’m not just talking about the outstandingly beautiful blue skies and heat from the sun, I mean our silky, smoky hot, sexy skills.
"The hockey was hot! I’m not just talking about our sweaty, pink, sun-kissed faces. I mean our in-tune passing, attacking possession and glorious style of play. The hockey was hot! There was not one rain cloud in the sky but there was a flood of goals! Goal, goal, goal and more goals with a goal, another goal and one more goal! Every one of them was a fantastic fives super team effort. We were all involved.
"The team deserved a day like that. Outstanding hockey again and incredible weather. It was a fitting end to this season. A season that has seen us lose to many a side but never have our spirits been extinguished. Week after week of outstanding performances but few wins. The players have kept their heads high and their hearts higher.
"To avoid relegation in your first season in a new league is key. Mission accomplished. I would like to thank this amazing squad of talented athletes. As my last match as captain, this was the perfect gift."
No such luck for the 7s, who rounded off their season with a 3-0 defeat at Lewes 4s for a seventh place finish in division three.
Updated 14:10 - 25 Apr 2019 by David Chappell