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Mixed feelings over Midlands 2 stay

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Hockey coach Paul Halfpenny has mixed feelings about Newark Ladies Hockey 1sts staying in the Midlands 2 after they were saved from relegation by the grace of Wellingborough’s resignation from the league.

Halfpenny and his players had braced themselves for the drop after a dismal end to their 2013-14 campaign, which, after a promising start, saw them fail to win any of their last 12 games.

They finished third from bottom, but after Wellingborough resigned a league restructure meant Newark were saved and will play in the fifth tier of English hockey for a third year running.

Halfpenny said: “On the one hand you want to be playing at the highest level you can, but on the other hand we were prepared for relegation and I was planning to draft in some young players to the team next season in the league below.

“It will be a hard test for those under-14 girls to adapt to that level, but now that we are there again we might be able to attract some good players to the club as well.

“I don’t know how next season will pan out. I thought we had a chance of being promoted this year but instead we nearly got relegated. Next season I might think we’re going to get relegated and we end up pushing for promotion.”

Halfpenny faces the prospect of losing some of his talented younger players, including Lucy Doncaster, Jess Cunningham, and Most Improved Player of the Year award-winner Katie McMunn, who are all going to university.

But the influential Becky Warner is likely to return fully to the side next season after a year of playing a bit-part role due to work commitments, and Halfpenny believes the long-term future of the club looks strong after good seasons from the Ladies’ 2nd and 3rd teams.

He said: “There is an enormous amount of talent within the younger members of the club so our long-term future looks very strong. It is just the short-term which we need to work on.”

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