Men’s Hockey League Premier Division – 17 March 2019
HAMPSTEAD & WESTMINSTER 0–2 SURBITON
Scorers: Alan Forsyth 57-F, Zach Wallace 63-F
Squad: Harry Gibson (GK); Lewis Prosser, Ben Boon, Jonny Gall (Capt.), Zach Wallace, James Royce, Alan Forsyth, Brendan Creed, Hayden Beltz, Sam Spencer, James Gall.
Subs: Tom Sorsby (5 mins), Arjan Drayton Chana (5), Nick Parkes (5), Tim Atkins (7), Dave Beckett (7).
Umpires: Dan Barstow and Paul Walker
Match Official: David Collier
Surbiton Men need one point from their last two games to finish top of the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division at the end of the regular season after a 2-0 win over Hampstead & Westminster at Paddington Recreation Ground on Sunday afternoon.
The eagerly anticipated top of the table clash was played in variable weather conditions, with the sun shining at the start of the match before overcast skies led to a brief rain shower in the first half. The sun returned during the second half but the game ended in a sudden hailstorm which was followed by thunder after the final whistle.
Surbiton went into the game with a three point advantage and took the game to Hampstead from the start with the aim of making an early breakthrough. However, although both teams had attacking intent, defences were generally on top.
A one-two passing move between James Gall and Arjan Drayton Chana led to Surbiton’s first penalty corner in the tenth minute, Toby Reynolds-Cotterill making an excellent save to prevent Tim Atkins giving the visitors the lead.
Dave Beckett and Drayton Chana both posted attacking threats with runs in a game which proved physical when Hampstead’s Jonny Gooch was shown a green card for a midfield clash with Drayton Chana in the 15th minute which left the Hampstead player on the ground.
Brendan Creed and Ben Boon combined as Surbiton tried to play slick passing hockey to outmanoeuvre the Hampstead defence, but the first half ended goalless with few scoring chances created. Both teams also had trouble with trapping aerial passes.
The game came to life in the 39th minute when Surbiton’s Sam Spencer was shown a yellow card for a foul on Hampstead captain, Toby Roche, but the visitors successfully defended the resulting penalty corner. Four minutes later, Surbiton goalkeeper, Harry Gibson made a superb save from Hampstead’s second penalty corner.
Tom Sorsby and Boon also tried running against the Hampstead defence, but the breakthrough finally came in the 57th minute when Dave Beckett’s shot was touched in by Alan Forsyth to wrongfoot Reynolds-Cotterill.
Forsyth had previously been denied by Reynolds-Cotterill, but Surbiton’s second goal was a superb effort, Zach Wallace running down the left before firing the ball against the backboard in the 63rd minute.
Hampstead, realistically needing to win the match to keep their hopes of finishing top of the table, responded by fielding a kicking back after Wallace’s goal, but although Roche went close, Hampstead’s hopes of a comeback were effectively ended when Paul Melkert saw yellow in the penultimate minute.
The final whistle was blown in the hailstorm with Surbiton’s players and large contingent of supporters, still able to celebrate in spite of the fierceness of the storm.
Surbiton’s win gives them a six point lead and a 19 superior goal difference with just two matches to play.
Hampstead are likely to finish second after Beeston inexplicably threw away a 3-0 lead to lose 6-4 at Reading to stay seven points behind Hampstead. Holcombe missed the chance to leap-frog East Grinstead into fourth place, drawing 2-2 at the University of Exeter, who are now guaranteed a place in the Promotion Tournament.
Sevenoaks were relegated after another goal-fest at Brooklands Manchester University, Brooklands winning 6-4. Brooklands and Reading’s wins mean they can still mathematically qualify for the playoffs.
Wimbledon are safe from relegation and are likely to be eliminated from playoff contention over the next couple of weeks, in spite of their 1-0 home win over East Grinstead on Saturday night.
Surbiton host Sevenoaks on Sunday (24 March) in their last home game of the season (push back 2 pm).