Head coach Ben Lamb said his Belper Hockey Club men’s 1sts proved people wrong by winning the Midlands Premier Division crown.
Belper ripped up the form guide as a 3-1 home victory against West Bridgford secured the 25/1 pre-season outsiders the title and a return to the EHL North Conference after a three-year absence.
Lamb said: “This was all about the boys… they’ve been fantastic since I arrived.
“People wrote us off at the start, but I never doubted what they were capable of. Each one of them has contributed.
“They deserve huge credit. They showed plenty of character and above all, they showed the attributes you need to be winner.”
Lamb said the men were also motivated by the club’s ladies’ 1sts, who have also returned to the EHL.
“Add to that the new clubhouse and the club is in great shape,” added Lamb.
A hat-trick from leading marksman Sam Dixon, who finished top of the scoring charts with an impressive tally of 34 goals, was enough to see Belper gain the points needed to bring home the title.
They got off to a dream start as Dixon opened the scoring within the first few minutes with a trademark penalty-corner strike.
The goal settled any nerves and gave the home side the perfect platform to build from.
With West Bridgford happy to sit deep and allow Belper the ball, the game wasn’t much of a contest.
As the game became scrappy, West Bridgford started to grow in confidence as they frustrated their hosts.
An error-strewn first half ended on a positive note as Belper doubled their advantage from another Dixon penalty-corner strike in the closing seconds to lead 2-0 at half-time.
After the restart, with Belper in the driving seat, the hosts knew that the next goal would be crucial. Determined not to concede ground, they continued to put pressure on the visitors.
With West Bridgford showing little sign of any adventure and unwilling to change their game plan, Belper transferred the ball around the back with ease and attacked at regular intervals.
From attacks came the pick of the goals as a superb move was finished off in style when Dixon grabbed his hat-trick, smashing a loose ball into the far corner.
The goal was greeted with wild scenes of celebration on the touchline as the crowd knew the game and the title was safe.
Belper saw out the remaining minutes with the only blemish coming when West Bridgford scored a consolation goal in the final moment from a penalty corner.
The final whistle brought further celebrations started as Belper completed the so called ‘mission impossible’ by delivering the Midlands Premier Division crown to defy their critics.