Wimbledon clinched the Men’s Premier League title for the first time on Sunday – despite their worst performance of the season.
After suffering their first defeat in the league this season – losing 5-2 at Canterbury – Wimbledon were forced to rely on other results to be crowned champions and only found out on the bus home.
Despite winning the end-of-season play-offs for the past two years, this is the first time they have won the regular league season and will go into this season’s play-offs next month as the team to beat for the first time.
Director of hockey Ben Marsden said: “We set ourselves a minor objective to try and remain unbeaten for the season so it was a shame we lost but all credit to Canterbury.
“It was a little bit of an anti-climax because we knew going into the game that it was in our hands and a win would secure the league.
“We didn’t actually realise at the time that, mathematically, we’d topped the league until we were all driving home so it was great that results went our way.
“We’ve now got our eyes on the prize for the play-offs because that’s the most important thing to us.”
April is set to be a huge month for the club and, before preparations start for their domestic defence, Wimbledon travel to Eindhoven for the Euro Hockey League to lock horns against Europe’s elite.
A round of 16 match-up against German side UHC Hamburg on April 14 is up first and Marsden reckons the side will be motivated to etch their name in the hockey hall of fame by winning a famous treble.
“We’ve got the opportunity to do the treble which is a great goal for us to have,” he said.
“We’ve got some good preparations planned, the EHL is just around the corner and at the same stage last year we really benefited from playing in Europe before our match against Holcombe.
“They’re a classic German side, really well-organised, and it will be a big test for us but we feel we’ve got the most balanced team we’ve ever had at the club right now heading into that campaign.”
After their European endeavours, Wimbledon have the first round of the play-offs on April 22 and look likely to face tomorrow’s league opponents, Hampstead & Westminster, who currently sit in fourth.
Marsden added: “That game is going to be interesting because they could be first up for us in the finals.
“Getting the three points will get us in the right frame of mind going into the play-offs but we definitely need to keep a few aces up our sleeve.”
Feature image of Wimbledon winning last season’s play-offs
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