Welcome to the pressure dome! Sheffield Hallam Civica’s promotion-pushing season has come down to a final day shoot-out.
Fresh from their record-breaking 12-0 demolition of already-relegated Ben Rhydding, the Abbeydale side travel to mid-table Belper on Sunday while leaders Durham University, who hold a one point advantage, host relegation-threatened Harbourne.
If Durham lose or are held to a draw and Civica win then they would take the North Conference championship and go forward to the promotion play-off. A Civica draw and a Durham defeat would give Hallam the title on goal difference but if both sides take maximum points then the honours would go to the University side and Civica would have to settle for second place, for the second year running.
Just to complicate matters still further, third-place Doncaster, who this week became the first Yorkshire club to reach the EH Men’s Cup Final when they beat Premier Division club Cannock in their semi-final, have a mathematical chance. If both Durham and Hallam lost, with Durham losing by two goals, Doncaster would need to win Sunday’s home match against Olton and West Warwicks by two clear goals to go top.
Civica skipper Duncan Longson feels the key to the showdown is for his team to concentrate fully on the Belper match and not events elsewhere.
He said: “Belper are a very experienced team, and even though they have little to play for, they are unlikely to lie down and allow us to walk away with an easy win. We beat them by what looked like a comfortable margin at home (6-3) but that game was level with 10 minutes to go, so it was closer than the score suggests.
“Overall it’s been an extremely successful season and we’re delighted to be in with a chance of winning the league going into the final game although the fact that we’re reliant on results elsewhere going our way is not ideal.”
Sheffield’s final home clash of the season against Ben Rhydding was over as a contest at half time as they stormed into a 5-0 lead through goals from Phil Roper, Rhys Gowman Danny Berry and two-in-a-minute from Will Hearne.
It just remained to be seen how many Civica would score - the answer was an incredible deadly dozen, a club record.
Martin Ebbage hit number six and Roper completed another accomplished hat-trick with two short corner strikes, before Scott Sanderson made it nine. Gowman brought up double figures; Hearne completed his hat-trick and Will Musgrave completed the romp.