East Men's Hockey League division three south east

COLCHESTER Hockey Club's men's team have sealed an impressive promotion - at the first time of asking.

Simon Pearson-Burton's side have secured their passage back to division two with three games to spare, after beating Redbridge and Ilford.

It means that the Garrison-based club have bounced back immediately, following last season's disappointing relegation.

Vice-captain Ben Parker, who scored twice in Colchester's win, said: "We knew that this was a big week for us and it was a pleasure to see the fruit of this year’s hard work from coach Wayne (Masters), captain Simon (Pearson-Burton) and the whole squad.

"The aim has always been to develop the squad for the future - our focus was and still remains in building a squad of depth for future seasons."

Colchester had lost 4-3 at Redbridge and Ilford last November and Parker said they were determined not to slip up again.

He said: "We struggled against Redbridge in the away fixture, so it was satisfying to see coach Wayne’s plan carried out well, even with a few key players missing.

"They are a very skilful team, so our defence did well to keep them out of the danger areas and our attackers were clinical when it came to putting away chances.

"We have averaged over four goals a game across the season and it was good to maintain our high-scoring form, against a strong opposition."

Colchester wanted to make a good start and took an early lead when Parker's weaving run allowed him to round two Redbridge defenders before flicking past the keeper, from the left hand side of the D.

The hosts' second followed shortly after.

Some further Colchester pressure led to a goalmouth scramble, from which Joe Shepard collected the call before calmly spotting it into the net.

However, the visitors halved the deficit when their forward converted a penalty flick, awarded after a Redbridge attack had been initially saved by Colchester goalkeeper James Mortimer.

But Colchester restored their two-goal advantage just before half-time, to settle the nerves.

A Parker shot from his reverse going wide of the goal was deflected elegantly over the keeper by Craig Handford, for his first of the game.

Colchester's second-half goals came from two well-executed penalty corners.

Parker slotted home low into the backboard after a simple one-two with Connor Scoynes at the top of the D.

And the home side's final goal was a beautifully-worked set play.

The ball was slipped left on the penalty corner and Lloyd Dennis played an inch-perfect pass to Handford on the right post, who made no mistake as he bounced the ball past the beaten goalkeeper.

Parker added: "Redbridge have been nipping at our heels on points for most the season, so we knew it would be a tough game.

"Our game plan was simply to get some goals in early - we defended their attacks well and we didn’t let the penalty flick they scored faze us.

"Once our third goal went in, we were confident that we could control the game."

Colchester travel to play Waltham Forest II, this Saturday.