Fielding a weakened side and only narrowly avoiding having to play without a goalkeeper, Brighton and Hove went down to a heavy defeat to Men's Hockey League Conference East leaders Old Georgians on Saturday.
Already missing their two main goalscorers, Brighton found themselves wrangling with England Hockey the day before the match after Old Georgians had brought the pushback forward, leaving Chris Borsoi without time to get to the game in Weybridge and no available replacement. Chairman Graham Edwards succeeded in making the case for it to be delayed, invoking the rule of insufficient notice, after it had been suggested Brighton face the most free-scoring attack in the league with 11 outfield players.
Great Britain internationals past and present - Sam Ward and James Tindall - did the damage for Old Georgians, both scoring hat-tricks, with the other goal in a 7-0 rout coming from Tom Watson.
Brighton held firm until three minutes from half time, when Ward netted a short corner, and his second, from a penalty stroke, was the first of four goals in the final 12 minutes. All the other goals came from open play, with Tindall taking his tally for the season to 20, the league's highest.
Victory virtually assures Old Georgians of the title given their vastly superior goal difference and they need one point from the final four games to be mathematically certain.
The race for second place is between Southgate, Canterbury and Oxted, who were surprisingly beaten 3-1 by bottom club City of Peterborough, while there is another close contest for the final two top six places involving Brighton, Teddington, Old Loughtonians and Richmond.
With three of their final four matches at home, Brighton tackle Oxted at Blatchington Sunday (March 10) at 1pm looking to do the double over last season's conference champions.
Brighton Vets' run in the national tier 2 championship ended in heartbreaking fashion when they went out 5-4 on penalty strokes after a 2-2 draw with Old Cranleighans on Sunday in the quarter-finals at Blatchington.
Carlo Missirian, the Brighton captain, had the consolation of seeing his side produce "an outstanding team display against a very strong opposition".
He reports: "Early exchanges were frenetic to say the least with Old Cs having the upper hand, both teams hitting the post in the first 10 minutes. Old Cs definitely had more chances and scored a great goal, but Brighton equalised within five minutes, Aidy slotting in from a Doc cross.
"Old Cs seemed to be winning the midfield battle and were certainly looking more dangerous in terms of chances and they scored a second just before half time.
"At half time, with the rain pouring down, a great tactical change from Russ and Don gave us a much better platform in midfield and we were in control for most of the game - probably the best 35 minutes played by the vets. We just could not find the net with several goalmouth chances just evading us.
"With a minute to go another great passage of play and passing culminated in a great pass from Russ with Lukey clinically finishing to make it 2-2, nothing more than we deserved.
"The lottery of flicks ... Pixie got touches to two and nearly pulled off the breakthrough, but unfortunately our last flick was saved.
"Gutted and a horrible way to leave the competition but could not be prouder of a fine team and bunch of living BHHC legends! Thanks to those who made the effort to support in such horrible conditions!
"MoM - Dave Delea, outstanding carrying off the ball and caused endless problems for their defence."
In the Kent/Sussex Regional League, Brighton went down 5-1 at Burnt Ash 1s, four of the goals comiong in the second half.
Andrew Bromley, up from the 3s for the day, reports: "Brighton made the trip to North Kent with a bare 11 and a 'stand in' keeper. Unfortunately Sam Bunday suffered a rolled ankle after literally one minute, so stand-in skipper Paris Goddard had to shuffle the pack, moving Gav Scott back to right back.
"Brighton opened the scoring through Jago Hussain. Despite keeping out 10 plus short corners, Burnt Ash finally got in the game during open play. 1-1 at half time and we all agreed that the game was in the balance.
"Unfortunately a bizarre decision was given against us and Burnt Ash scored from three feet outside the D. Ash were then denied a certain goal by the umpires as they hadn't realised the ball had passed through an extra large hole in the damaged net.
"Ash complained heavily and convinced the umpires to overturn their decision. Brighton confirmed that the goal should stand but felt aggrieved that the opposition skipper had not shown such honest behaviour when claiming the previous non-goal.
"In the final minutes Ash scored a couple more goals, largely due to the Brighton defence being totally spent! A fair outcome but the scoreline flattered the hosts.
"MoM - 'stand in' GK Andy Bromley. Dod - Sam 'No Shorts' Bunday."
In the Sussex League division one both the 3s and 4s ended up on the losing side, the 3s going down 3-1 at home to bottom side Crowborough and the 4s, resting players ahead of the Vets cup tie and with only 12, beaten by the only goal at Worthing 3s.
"We played well in the first half and created enough chances to score a few goals but our lack of finishing would eventually haunt us," reports captain Carlo.
"We lost our shape a little in the second half and Worthing scored a sloppy goal against the run of play and then had ascendancy for the rest of the game. We still had chances and could have and should have at least gained a draw out of the game.
"Very frustrating result but very grateful to those who were able to play. A real shame we could not build on the momentum from last week’s victory against Lewes 2s."
The 5s were unable to prevent arch rivals Lewes 3s from clinching the division two championship in a top of the table clash decided by the only goal while the match stats provided by Kevin Mould told the story of the 6s 3-1 defeat at Mid Sussex 2s in division three.
|Shots on Goal|
|Amazing GK saves|
|GK saves with helmet|
| ||Fouls penalised ratio|
| 0||1 (G) |
"MOM - without any doubt split between Pete Stevens (keeping) and Al Teal (defending and distribution).
"DOD - without any doubt our green card holder Myles Ford for sarcastically asking the umpire for millimetre precision where to take a free hit from."
Jason Bryant scored five goals in the 7s' 6-0 rout of Crowborough 3s in division four.
Gary Revel-Chion reports: "A great performance in the absence of captain Dickie Barnes and a day where everything fell into place. Atul Patel was industrious in midfield and commanded the middle of the pitch.
"We created many good chances, five of which Jason Bryant put away himself, including an outrageous one-handed effort inches off the back line. We won't say any more about the five he missed!
"There was a contender for goal of the season. From our 16-yard hit to the back of the opposition goal in five crisp passes and an unstoppable shot. A great all round performance.
"Next up EG, bring it on...hmmm!"
Matt Sale was delighted with the 8s' performance in a 3-2 win away to Eastbourne 5s, with Chris Allen scoring his first goals for Brighton.
"The 8s started the game well and took the lead when Rob 'Dreadful' Threlfall scored. We were denied a deserved second when Laurie Meldon's effort was ruled out. Eastbourne came into the game just before the break but Riordan O'Brien was largely untroubled in the BHHC goal.
"We doubled our lead after half time when we scored a superb PC. Chris Allen went diving in to deflect Matt Sale's strike into the goal. Eastbourne replied after a quickly-taken free hit caught the defence out; however Chris Allen then scored again to give us a two-goal cushion.
"With Max Wolfenden pulling the strings in midfield we continued to be in control, however Eastbourne scored a second with a PC at the death. A great team performance from the 8s."
Updated 14:10 - 25 Apr 2019 by David Chappell