M1 Battle To 2-1 Win At Wimbledon
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Men extended their lead at the top of the Men's Hockey League Premier Division to six points over second placed Wimbledon with a game in hand after a hard fought 2-1 win at Raynes Park High School on Sunday afternoon.
The victory also ended Wimbledon's unbeaten run leaving Surbiton as the only unbeaten team in the top flight with maximum points at the halfway point of the season.
Both teams had been on fire the previous day with Surbiton beating Hampstead & Westminster 8-4 and Wimbledon winning 4-3 at East Grinstead but defences were on top in the local derby with the teams well matched in the first quarter.
Ben Boon forced a save from Wimbledon goalkeeper James Bailey after just 57 seconds and Harry Gibson was also called upon in the Surbiton goal, but although both teams showed attacking intent, their respective defences were equally adept, Peter Friend and Ian Sloan combining with Bailey to clear the ball on one occasion for the hosts.
The breakthrough came three minutes before half time, Zach Wallace breaking Wimbledon's defensive shackles to beat Bailey and celebrate in style.
Surbiton forced a penalty corner just before half time but Wimbledon successfully defended to prevent falling two goals behind, Luke Taylor denied.
However in the second half, Wimbledon forced two successive penalty corners and equalised from the second, Jack Waller putting away a rebound in the 40th minute.
Surbiton were reduced to ten players in the 44th minute when Wallace was shown a yellow card, having seen green in the first half, but the numbers were level for the last two minutes of his suspension after Dominic Bowden was shown a green card.
Bailey saved from Taylor as Surbiton forced a third penalty corner in the 48th minute as the visitors tried to restore their lead.
Surbiton were given an unexpected attacking opportunity when a Wimbledon pass from the touchline was deflected into the roof of his own net by Michael Hoare, but fortunately for Wimbledon, Surbiton failed to take advantage of the long corner.
Again, Gibson had to kick the ball to safety early in the final quarter as the game remained in the balance and at the other end, former Surbiton player Ben Tibble tackled Arjan Drayton Chana on the edge of the circle as both teams sought a winning goal.
The deciding goal came in the 64th minute, another slick passing move finding Forsyth in the centre of the circle to score his eleventh goal of the season.
Wimbledon still threatened and with three minutes remaining, penalty corner specialist Taylor turned penalty corner defender to prevent Wimbledon levelling from their fourth penalty corner.
With the temperature dropping as the sun started to set, the final whistle was blown to confirm that Surbiton had come through one of their toughest tests of the season with Wimbledon making it as difficult for the league leaders as possible.
Wimbledon stayed second but Old Georgians are a point behind in third with a game in hand after coming out on top in a 5-4 thriller at Holcombe.
In fourth, Hampstead opened up a six point gap over Holcombe with a 3-0 home win over East Grinstead.
Brooklands Manchester University and Beeston pulled away from the bottom of the table as Brooklands beat Reading 4-1 in Sale and Beeston won 5-0 at the University of Exeter.
Surbiton are at home to Reading next Saturday (23 November) at 6 pm. Reading are now the only team without a win in the Premier Division this season and will be aiming for a better performance after losing 10-1 at home to Surbiton on the opening day of the season.