STROUD Hockey men’s 3rd XI are Division Two champions after beating Newent B.

With one game remaining, Stroud can afford to enjoy the game, safe in the knowledge that all their hard work, dedication to the team and a massive desire to play attractive hockey, has paid dividends.

Under captain Chris Bargh, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, the squad’s almost unique blend of youth and experience, pace and cunning, ensured the small but stalwart band of supporters were entertained week-after- week.

Stroud hit the top in the game before the Christmas break, beating then title contenders Winchcombe 6-0 at home.

A magnificent defensive record, and an unbeaten home record to boot, were just two stand-outs from the season. To concede a more than frugal five goals at home all season is fantastic.

The defence, fronted, or perhaps backed, by Bryn Nicol in goal, was the foundation of the season-long performance.

Sol Bowen, one of several youngsters who grew in stature throughout the season, cemented his position at left-back and deservedly won the award for most improved player.

Centre midfield maestros – maybe that is an overused term these days – Alex Elder and Steve Batt provided the pivoting power, distributing the ball with aplomb and displaying more than a pinch of tenacity and steel when the chips were down. They were also gracious enough to allow part-time midfielders, namely the strikers, to take their places when required.

In all honesty, the squad had the ability and confidence to play in almost any position on the pitch, without detriment to the result.

A goal difference of 71 is something at which nobody should sniff.

The potent strike force of Chris Bargh, voted player of the year and Tim Norman, 28 goals and counting, was pretty deadly, complemented the frugality of the defence.

Meanwhile, Bob Brewer and Nigel Sherwood represented Gloucestershire Over-60s. Sherwood reached the semi-finals and attended England trials at the illustrious Olympic Park.

Brewer was unfortunate to miss several matches in the latter half of the season, but was named the club’s Umpire of the Year.

Squad: Chris Bargh, Tim Norman, Matt Watts, Dom Creech, James Testar, Sol Bowen, Nigel Williams, Huw Widgery, Bryn Nicol, Ollie Roberts, Alex Elder, Steve Batt, Harvey Freer, Dan Rose-Innes, Bob Brewer, Stuart Holt, Hamish Norman, Calum Norman, Nick Hitchcroft, Dan Richards, Henry Bonham, Elliott Bonham.