Hockey: Clarke says Euro success is huge step forward for Grange

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COACH Colin Clarke believes Grange’s gold medal success in the EuroHockey Club Champions Challenge 1 in Croatia is a massive step for the ambitious Edinburgh club.

The squad, with six players under the age of 21, kept their cool to survive two late penalty corners and claim narrow 2-1 victory over Czech cracks SK Slavia Praha in Zagreb.

Grange’s win secured promotion to the second tier of European club hockey.

And Clarke said: “The boys were excellent and the result is just brilliant. We stood up and got the result we came here for.

“This is a huge step forward for the club and we the young players really came of age.”

He added: “We approached the game in the right frame of mind and that paid off. It is mission accomplished.”

Fraser Sands claimed a glory double from penalty corners, the first coming after eight minutes and the second on the stroke of half-time.

And the Edinburgh side had to withstand a late fightback from Slavia, who scored with three minutes left through Tomas Vohnicky.

The experienced Czech side had eight international players in their squad but Grange’s rising stars were not phased by the highly-rated Europeans.

The high-paced game was played in searing heat but Grange’s stand-in hot-stop Dave Woodcock kept his nerve and was alert in the opening minutes to keep the scoreline level.

Scottish international forward Cammy Fraser then squandered a chance to break the deadlock but Grange counted with their first corner after eight minutes.

Sands, a Scotland under-21 international, maintained his purple patch during the tournament when he stepped up to fire the ball low to the goalkeepers’ left-hand side.

The Edinburgh side dominated the game for the remainder of the first-half.

Their pressure paid off as Sands fired a penalty corner effort wide of Czech goalkeeper Tomas Hanus in the 35th minute, his fifth goal in three games in the tournament.

The scoreline remained the same throughout a tight second-half. Then Slavia coach Tomas Babicky withdrew their goalkeeper to send on an extra outfield player in a bid to salvage the game with ten minutes left.

That gamble was rewarded when the ball flew past Woodcock following a well-worked penalty corner.