THE DEVILS were left heartbroken as they missed out on the National League south division two title by the narrowest of margins on Saturday night.
The Solent & Gosport outfit needed to avoid defeat at Oxford City Stars to claim the crown and promotion to division one.
But, after leading the race for most of the season, the Devils fell at the final hurdle and crashed to a 7-5 defeat at Oxpens Road.
It was a devastating finale for the club who – under the guidance of player-coach Will Francis – have set the division alight this campaign.
They boast more wins and more goals than another side, while have conceded the least in the league.
But that wasn’t enough.
Ultimately, the 5-1 defeat at the hands of Slough Jets at the beginning of March cost them dear.
With both clubs locked on 38 points at the top of the table, the crown was given to the side with the best head-to-head record.
The Devils had won 6-4 at home but the four-goal margin of their away defeat earned the Jets the title 9-7 on goal-difference.
It was a cruel blow for the Planet Ice-based club, who have been knocking on the door of promotion for the past few seasons.
‘We gave it our best but unfortunately we stumbled at the end of a fantastic season – the best ever in our history,’ said first-team manager Paul Fitzpatrick.
‘It just wasn’t meant to be but we will come back stronger next season.
‘To say we are all totally gutted and very disappointed would be an understatement.
‘It was there for the taking but we couldn’t finish it off.
‘Maybe the pressure of winning the league just got to us. The lads are brokenhearted right now but will bounce back.
‘The fans have been fantastic all season and we hope they will be back to help us in September, too. We are sorry we haven’t brought the title back to Gosport this year – next year we will be trying even harder.’
Drew Campbell fired the Devils in front in Oxford after just four minutes – the first of his four goals on the night.
The Stars hit back twice before Kent Johnson levelled the match.
Oxford went in at the break 3-2 ahead, though, and after Campbell had levelled again they struck three goals in quick succession as penalties hurt the Devils.
In the final period two more strikes from Campbell boosted the visitors’ belief.
Chance after chance went begging before the Devils went for broke and removed their netminder.
The puck, however, broke free from a face-off deep in Oxford territory and the hosts raced clear to complete a 7-5 win.