Buckingham will play in the end-of-season Investec Hockey League play-offs for the fifth year in a row after a 4-0 defeat away at the University of Birmingham in their final match of the regular season.
Buckingham have previously played in the promotion/relegation play-offs as champions of the Conference West, but following promotion last season, they have struggled to adapt in their maiden season in the Premier Division and will now have to battle against Slough, Wakefield and East Grinstead to retain their Premier Division status.
Speaking after Saturday’s defeat to Birmingham, head coach Zak Jones said: “We started well, but the manner in which we conceded the first goal really took the wind out of our sails and once the second goal went in so early in the second half, we never really looked like getting anything from the game.
“In all honesty, it was not one of our better performances and while we have felt aggrieved not to have taken something more from many of our games this season, this was not one where that was the case.
“However, I was really pleased with the character, resilience and fighting spirit we showed in keeping playing until the final whistle as these are all qualities that will be important during the play-off tournament.”
Buckingham enjoyed the brighter start against Birmingham, creating a couple of good early openings, but the hosts gradually gained a foothold in the game before taking a 24th minute lead after a comedy of errors in the visiting defence.
With Birmingham also needing a win and other results to go their way in order to earn a place in the top four, they pushed forward but with player of the match Frankie Scott to the fore, Buckingham defended well to remain just one behind going into half-time.
The second half started poorly for the visitors, however, as some clinical passing from the hosts resulted in a second goal and from then on it was tough going for Buckingham and as they threw players forward, Birmingham exploited the inevitable gaps in the away side’s defence and it was only a matter of time until the capitalised and two goals in three minutes put the game to bed.
The disappointment at the loss was compounded by the news that nearest rivals Bowdon could only draw with bottom side Beeston, which meant that a win would have seen Buckingham safe and avoiding the play-offs.
But it wasn’t to be and instead Buckingham will now start their play-off campaign against East Conference champions East Grinstead this Sunday at Cannock Hockey Club.