M1 AIMING FOR HAT-TRICK OF NATIONAL TITLES THIS WEEKEND
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Men will go for a hat-trick of Men’s Hockey League Championships triumphs this weekend at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
Surbiton have previously won their two titles on a shootout after a 3-3 draw in normal time. In 2017 they beat Wimbledon and in 2018 Hampstead & Westminster were the runners-up.
And this season, for the first time in their history, Surbiton finished top of the Premier Division table at the end of the regular season.
Therefore, Surbiton face fourth placed East Grinstead at 11 am on Saturday in the first semi-final. Surbiton did the double over East Grinstead this season, James Royce, Alan Forsyth scoring twice and Arjan Drayton Chana also on target in a 4-0 win in West Sussex.
Drayton Chana was on the scoresheet in the return fixture, coming from behind after Tijn van Groesen gave East Grinstead the lead and Hayden Beltz quickly equalised, Surbiton winning 2-1.
East Grinstead hung on to the fourth spot in spite of two losses in their last three games as their rivals for the last playoff qualifying spot also faltered on the run in.
With Surbiton on a run of eight successive league wins, they will go into the tournament as favourites but as last year, Hampstead & Westminster, thanks to Kwan Browne will also be in contention to win the competition for the first time when they meet Beeston at 1.15 in the second semi-final.
Surbiton and Hampstead have battled it out for top spot in the Premier Division all season, and the league clashes were also hard fought. Hampstead came to Sugden Road in November and took a point back to Paddington Recreation Ground after a 2-2 draw.
Forsyth and Tim Atkins scored for Surbiton with Paul Melkert and former Surbiton player, Rupert Shipperley replying for Hampstead under the floodlights in front of a large crowd.
The return on 17 Mar was also hard fought before Forsyth broke the deadlock in the 57th minute and Zach Wallace conjured up a sublime finish six minutes later to give Surbiton a 2-0 win and all but end Hampstead’s hopes of finishing top.
Beeston are the only team of Surbiton’s rivals to have beaten the reigning champions this season, winning 4-3 at Sugden Road after Surbiton seemed to be in the ascendancy. Surbiton led 3-1 with ten minutes to play, thanks to Forsyth’s brace and a goal from William Marshall. Beeston scored three goals in three minutes, Henry Croft, James Albery (who subsequently joined Conference East champions, Old Georgians) and Nick Park turning the match around.
In the first meeting at Nottingham Hockey Centre in October, Surbiton came away with a 5-3 win in a very entertaining match. This time it was Surbiton’s turn to mount a comeback after two goals from Elliot Hibell and an opening goal from Robbie Gleeson gave Beeston a 3-2 half time lead, Royce and Forsyth responding for Surbiton.
Forsyth completed his hat-trick with two goals in the second half, the hat-trick goal coming from the penalty spot and Ben Boon also struck late as free scoring Surbiton followed up a 7-2 away win at Brooklands Manchester University and a 6-2 home win over Reading.
Tickets are still available from the England Hockey See Tickets website.
If you can’t get to Lee Valley, the games are being streamed live by Galvanised Hockey on both their Facebook and You Tube feeds.
More information about the men’s tournament can be found at the England Hockey Altius website.