Fareham taught lesson by Cardiff
Fareham were taught a lesson in clinical finishing during their 3-2 defeat to champions Cardiff & Met in their final game of the season.
James Seager and Jamie Rawlings were both on target but the hosts were unable to add to their tally as they closed the campaign with a loss.
The result means the Henry Cort side finished fifth in National League conference west with 28 points from 18 games.
They closed behind the University of Birmingham on goal difference and were just three points off second-placed Team Bath Buccaneers.
Fareham made a slow start to the season but put together an excellent run of results which showed they are capable of taking on the best teams in the division.
Performance director Ben Barnes said: ‘The players now realise that they are competitive.
‘We’re more than a match for the teams around us now, which is really encouraging going forward.
‘The three goals Cardiff scored were all from errors on our part.
‘We played some really nice hockey. We were really threatening but we could have done more with the chances we had.
‘The difference between the two sides was that Cardiff punished us for our mistakes and we weren’t as clinical.
‘A 3-3 draw would have been the least we deserved from the game.
‘In the first half we had four or five really good opportunities.
‘We put them under pressure in the second half.’
In the build-up to the opening goal, the ball ricocheted off a couple of defenders and then Seager’s effort hit a defender’s foot before finally going in after 21 minutes.
Cardiff only got back on level terms in the dying moments of the first period thanks to a well-worked penalty corner routine that was finished off by Dale Hutchinson.
The visitors then took the lead on 42 minutes, after a fierce strike from Luke Hawker.
But their lead only lasted four minutes, after Fareham hit back from a clinical penalty-corner strike by Rawlings.
‘Getting the second equaliser gave us confidence and knocked Cardiff back a bit,’ said Barnes.
‘But we’ve got to be able to convert that pressure into goals.’
Seager was a livewire up front, along with Ed Carson.
His excellent stick skills won a penalty corner and forced the Cardiff keeper into a good block but, unfortunately, it was at the other end where he made an impact.
A mistake in his own D was ruthlessly punished by James Carson in the 64th minute to make it 3-2.
There was late drama, though, as Chris Davey came within a whisker of a Fareham equaliser but his shot was scooped just over the bar.
The match was also significant for brothers Danny and Jamie Rawlings, who played together for the last time.
The pair have been in the same teams since the age of five but Danny is leaving Fareham to join the RAF.
Meanwhile, it was also the last game for Nathan Palmer, who is moving to Australia.