Fareham retained their England Hockey Men’s Conference West status with a comprehensive 6-2 play-off win over St Albans.
The Henry Cort side defeated the Conference North outfit in emphatic fashion and sealed their own fate with goals from Alex Bennett (2), Shaun Baker, Sam Hiscock (2) and James Seager.
After finishing second from bottom in the league this season, Nigel Cook’s men faced the daunting prospect of two play-off matches in a three-team round-robin format with Conference East side Harborne and St Albans.
Whoever finished top of the group stayed up, while the other two were relegated.
And following last week’s 4-2 victory over Harborne, Cook’s side were confident of beating St Albans and remaining in the same division as neighbours Havant.
Early bright spells of possession from Fareham at Clarence Park produced some attractive play but failed to produce an end product.
As the pressure mounted on the home side, though, St Albans were forced into a series of mistakes.
This resulted in them conceding a penalty corner and presented Seager with the opportunity to set up Bennett to break the deadlock.
Baker then fired the Henry Cort side into a two-goal lead, before Bennett made it three before half-time with his second of the game.
Fareham started the second half how they finished the first with a great passing move that allowed Hiscock to score at the back post.
Hiscock then followed up his first with a superb individual effort – finishing with a sublime reverse-stick shot after dribbling past three defenders to make it 5-0.
Lapses in concentration and a sin bin for Bennett allowed St Albans back into the game as they reduced the deficit to three.
But it proved too little, too late as Seager sealed victory following a penalty corner and some slick stick skills from Paul Hilton.
‘We’ve comprehensively won these play-offs,’ said Cook.
‘But, to be honest, we should never have been in that situation anyway. I know the table doesn’t lie but on numerous occasions we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, really.’
He added: ‘Now we’ve smashed the play-offs, we just need to learn from this.
‘Next season we’ll come back and be a much more stable and solid unit.’
Before then, Fareham have the small matter of facing Havant in the Hampshire Cup final in Bournemouth on Saturday (4pm).