In the end Sheffield Hallam Civica’s had to settle for second best.
That so-near-yet-so-far scenario once again came into play as their championship dream was put on hold for another year after an end-of-season day of drama.
They were held to a 3-3 draw by Belper but that result meant little after leaders and would-be champions Durham University crushed Harbone 7-1 to secure the North Conference title and a place in the forthcoming play-offs.
There was also a sense of reality to the proceedings after Alex Humphreys was ruled out of the Belper clash after sustaining an horrific head injury during a training session, which required surgery. It served as a reminder, if any was needed, that hockey is only a game and there are more important things in life.
As it was Civica took a 16 minute lead against the run of play in a move that was started and finished by skipper Duncan Longson along with a helping hand from Will Hearne.
The match was turned on its head five minutes before half time when Martin Ebbage was sin-binned and the home side took full advantage with two quick-fire goals.
Danny Berry was next to see yellow along with his Belper counterpart shortly after the break and Mike Shaw soon followed. Thankfully, out of this chaos came a moment of genius from Martin Ebbage, who had consistently caused the opposition - and most notably his brother! - problems all game. His drive into the D past three defenders was followed by an excellent low finish, to tie the scores.
However Belper came straight and a succession of short corners finally paid dividends as they regained the lead. Five minutes from time Phil Roper deflected home from close range and despite a frantic finale, tghe match ended with honours even.
Despite the disappointment of a second-place finish for the second successive season, Civica broke records for goals scored, fewest goals conceded while individual accolades saw Roper, who bagged 21 goals in his first season at this level, and Hearne finish first and fifth highest scorers in the league. The duo, along with Ebbage, have also made it through to the training squad for Pennine Pumas and will hope to complete in this year’s GB Superleague.