M1 Win 5-2 At Oxted
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Men went top of the Men's Hockey League Premier Division on goal difference from Hampstead & Westminster after coming from behind to win 5-2 at Oxted on Sunday afternoon.
Surbiton had lost 1-0 at Oxted School in their last match of the 2020-21 season and were determined to make amends on their return.
Oxted went into the rematch with confidence after securing their first ever away win, 2-1 at East Grinstead the previous week.
Surbiton had come from 4-3 down at the end of the third quarter to win 6-4 at home to Holcombe seven days earlier.
The game started in warm conditions, but the floodlights were switched on from the start, anticipating a possible change in the weather.
Surbiton had to be patient at the start, passing the ball around to try and find away through Oxted's tactic of pressing, whilst Oxted were indeed confident and assured in their first home match of the season.
Oxted forced two successive penalty corners, Owen Williamson, who scored both goals at East Grinstead, seeing his penalty corner expertise nullified by Surbiton blocking both efforts, but there was nothing the defence could do in the 14th minute when Max Gilbert gave Oxted the lead through open play.
The decision to switch the floodlights on was more justified during the second quarter as the skies became overcast, but not enough to threaten rain.
Rob Farrington had a shot saved by home goalkeeper, Fred Whitfield and Tim Nurse went on a run as Surbiton worked out how to negate Oxted's defensive strategy.
Surbiton had to be patient and the equaliser came in the 27th minute, Gareth Furlong dragflicking the ball into the roof of the net beyond Whitfield from the third of three successive penalty corners, and Surbiton's fifth of the match.
Rob Farrington and Ben Park played an excellent one-two passing move, which was denied the goal it deserved when the final shot missed the target.
In the 33rd minute, James Gall was on hand to give Surbiton the lead for the first time from open play, finding the backboard to give the visitors a 2-1 half time lead and to leave Oxted to rethink their strategy for the second half.
Oxted continued to force penalty corners, but both Williamson and Nick Giles failed to make any headway and it was Surbiton who extended their lead from a set-piece, Luke Taylor rifling the ball into the net in the 50th minute to give the visitors a 3-1 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
The weather, having brightened for the third quarter, darkened once more during the fourth, but the future was bright for Surbiton.
Taylor struck again on the hour from Surbiton's eighth and final penalty corner to all but clinch the game with a 4-1 lead.
However, Oxted's persistence at forcing penalty corners of their own finally bore fruit in the 63rd minute when Jordan Turnbull finished off the hosts' seventh award to reduce their deficit to 4-2.
Nick Park had the last word with three minutes to play, falling to the ground from the momentum of scoring Surbiton's fifth goal from open play.
Hampstead & Westminster are the only other team on maximum points as they followed up a 3-2 win at Wimbledon with a 4-2 home win over East Grinstead.
Wimbledon bounced back with a 3-2 win at Beeston and Brooklands Manchester University earned their first points of the season, 2-1 at home to the University of Exeter, the Devon club playing their first match of the season.
Holcombe beat the University of Durham 3-0 to earn their first points of the season.