Hockey: East Grinstead sweep national title

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EAST GRINSTEAD won the 20th national indoor club championship here last night, stepping on to the winners' rostrum for the first time since defeating St Albans in the 1987 event. They overcame Old Loughtonians 6-3 in an exciting final, but the losers could point to the loss of their star defender Julian Halls, who was injured minutes into the game, as partly responsible for their downfall.

The Old Boys, making their first appearance in the final with their Scottish coach Billy McPherson, were quickly into their stride, forcing a corner within seconds which Richard Leman cleared off the line in grand style. Chris Gladmans then capitalised on a break down the left boards to open the scoring.

Neil Barker made it 2-0 before Bram van Asselt, with a penalty stroke and then a corner conversion, pulled Grinstead back into the game. Barker struck again and on the interval whistle Chris John levelled the scores once more.

Leman put East Grinstead ahead shortly after the break, Rob Clift forced and converted a penalty stroke and the Sussex side's captain Richard Organ iced the cake with their sixth goal.

Old Loughtonians' route to the final came via a 5-3 win against Firebrands in their opening game, and a 4-3 semi-final victory over Stourport with three goals from Neil Barker and one from Mark Constable.

Stourport had earlier shattered the dreams of St Albans, who were trying for a sixth successive win, thanks to a devastating 10 minutes from Imran Sherwani. He took his side into a 4-0 lead, scoring twice and setting up the other two.

St Albans clawed their way back to 5-4, only to be awarded a penalty stroke on the final whistle. Steve Taylor, with a spectacular flying dive, saved Ian Jennings' powerful strike to put the champions out.

INDOOR CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP (Crystal Palace): Quarter-finals: Blackheath 3 Welton 7; East Grinstead 6 Harborne 6; St Albans 4 Stourport 5; Firebrands 3 Old Loughtonians 5. Semi-finals: Welton 3 East Grinstead 3 (East Grinstead won 3-2 on penalty strokes); Stourport 3 Old Loughtonians 4. Final: East Grinstead 6 Old Loughtonians 3.

(Photograph omitted)