M1 At Home To Oxted On Sunday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Men play their first match in the Men's Hockey League League Finals on Sunday when they welcome Oxted to Sugden Road (push back 2 pm).
Surbiton are in Pool B with Wimbledon and Reading, who played each other on Saturday night with Wimbledon winning 5-0. Ed Horler's hat-trick and goals from David Condon and Jack Turner got Wimbledon off to a flying start.
Surbiton visit Reading on 18 March (push back 5.30 pm) and are at home to Wimbledon (push back 4.30 pm) on 25 March.
Surbiton will want to finish in the top two of Pool B and qualify for the semi-finals which will be played at Sugden Road on 1 April.
Pool A consists of Beeston, Old Georgians, Hampstead & Westminster and Holcombe. Old Georgians beat Beeston 4-1 at home on Saturday night, Sam Ward's hat-trick and a goal from James Tindall helping the reigning champions off to a perfect start, Oliver Ashdown scoring Beeston's consolation goal.
All eight teams start on zero points but in Phase 3, if a match is drawn, there will be a shootout to decide who gets an extra point.
Oxted qualified for the League finals by finishing top (seventh) in the Lower 6 after just failing to qualify for the Top 6 after eleven games.
Oxted were last at Sugden Road in October when they lost 5-1 after Nick Giles gave them the lead. A brace from Arjan Drayton-Chana plus goals from Louis Gittens, Gareth Furlong and Luke Taylor enabled Surbiton to battle back for the win.
This season, Oxted are based at Caterham School, but both away matches for Surbiton took place at Oxted School, where Oxted won 1-0 thanks to Tim Guise-Brown's goal in the last match before Covid-19 caused the 2020-21 season to be declared null and void and in September 2021, Surbiton found their form with a 5-2 win, Luke Taylor scoring twice with Gareth Furlong, Nick Park and James Gall also on the scoresheet. Max Gilbert and Jordan Turnbull scored for Oxted.
Oxted have three players on five goals: Jonathan Lankfer, Matthew Barnett and Owen Williamson, but are now starting to establish themselves in the Premier Division, although they were unlucky in the last two seasons to just miss out on a Top Six place.
In Pool A, Hampstead & Westminster visit Holcombe and both meetings this season ended 3-1 to Holcombe. Hampstead haven't won at Holcombe since September 2019 when they won 6-1, having also won 7-2 the previous March.
The four teams which didn't qualify for the League Finals are battling to avoid relegation. Brooklands Manchester University's fate was sealed last weekend as they trailed the University of Nottingham by ten points with only three games to play. Nottingham and the University of Exeter are only separated by a single point with Nottingham not wanting to make an immediate return to Division One.
The picture could be clearer on Sunday as Nottingham travel to Devon and in another statistical quirk, both meetings have been won 3-2 by the home team this season. Exeter won on 11 February and Nottingham were victors on 29 October.
Brooklands travel to East Grinstead on Sunday in a fixture which has seen 24 meetings since the 1998-99 season. Brooklands didn't return to the Premier Division until 2009-10, with East Grinstead fondly remembering their 9-0 home win in March 2015, whilst Brooklands have eight victories to cherish, including their first home match against East Grinstead which they won 4-2.