M1 Visit Reading On Sunday
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Men travel to Reading on Sunday, having clinched a second place finish in the regular season Men's Hockey League Premier Division in advance of the Phase Three playoffs.
As this is the final round of matches in Phase 2, all matches start at 2 pm.
Reading are guaranteed to finish sixth at the end of Phase 2, and are on a run of five successive defeats having lost 4-0 at Wimbledon and 6-0 at Holcombe last weekend; 2-1 at home to Old Georgians; and successive defeats to Hampstead & Westminster: 0-5 away and 4-3 at home.
Reading's last victory came at Sonning Lane in November when they won 5-1 over the University of Exeter.
Surbiton's last visit to Sonning Lane was on the opening day of the 2019-20 season when Reading were beaten 10-1 at the start of what became a relegation season. Reading managed to win Division One South last season to return to the Premier Division and they qualified for the Top Six.
Surbiton won 5-2 at Sugden Road in October with Luke Taylor scoring twice, Ben Park, Nick Park and Gareth Furlong also scoring; Toby Heywood-Bourne and Monty Neave replying for Reading.
Over the years, Reading v Surbiton has been a major top-flight fixture, with of 44 fixtures since the 1996-97 season, Reading winning 17 and Surbiton 19.
Reading beat Surbiton 6-1 twice: in February 1997 at home and in November 2007 in Elmbridge. Surbiton beat Reading 6-4 in October 2003 in another high scoring match.
In 2022-23, Fred Newbold is Reading's leading goalscorer with 7 goals, closely followed by Tom Minall on 6. Dan Cox and Harry Skinner have both scored 3, Monty Neave has netted twice with Edward Evans, Toby Heywood-Bourne, Adam Pescod and Harrison Smith all contributing single goals.
Old Georgians have an eight point lead over Surbiton and won the Men's Premier Division assuring themselves of a place in the Euro Hockey League. They complete Phase 2 with a home game against Wimbledon, who were 4-2 winners at home to Hampstead & Westminster on Saturday.
Ben Francis and Ed Horler gave Wimbledon a 2-0 lead before Sam French pulled back a goal for Hampstead. Jack Waller converted a penalty corner to ensure Wimbledon led 3-1 at half time before Evan Kimber extended Wimbledon's lead to 4-1, four minutes after the interval.
Will Calnan made the score 4-2 in the 56th minute and that was how the game finished.
Wimbledon have been successful against Old Georgians since the Elmbridge club won promotion in 2018-19, winning three and losing two with one match drawn. Sam Ward scored all four goals when the teams met at St. George's College in November, Old Georgians winning 4-2, but Wimbledon won 3-2 there in April.
Fifth-placed Hampstead and fourth-placed Holcombe cannot catch third-placed Wimbledon after Hampstead's defeat on Saturday, but the teams can switch places if Hampstead beat Holcombe at Paddington Recreation Ground on Sunday. It will be Holcombe's first visit to Paddington Rec since October 2021 when honours were even in a 2-2 draw but the last scheduled fixture in February 2022 resulted in a 5-0 walkover for Hampstead.
In the Lower Six, Beeston, Oxted and East Grinstead will fight it out for the all-important top two places. Beeston travel to East Grinstead where they haven't won since November 2019 when they were 5-1 winners. East Grinstead won at home in November 2021 (3-2) and the earlier meeting this season in October ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Oxted are at home to the University of Nottingham. Back in October there was a goalless draw in Surrey. Brooklands Manchester University who look consigned to relegation with two points and no win so far this season, welcome the University of Exeter to the North West, Exeter having won 6-2 at Brooklands in April. One of Brooklands' two points came in their visit to Devon in October, when the match ended in a 2-2 draw.