Old Georgians Inflict M1's First Defeat of Season
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Men suffered their first defeat in the Men's Hockey League Premier Division this season on Saturday night when the reigning champions, Old Georgians won 2-1 in front of a large and vociferous crowd.
The victory ensures that Old Georgians will end 2022 as the top team in the Premier Division as Surbiton's local rivals opened up a five point lead whilst maintaining their unbeaten record at Sugden Road in the top flight.
Old Georgians made their attacking intent clear from the start as Surbiton conceded a penalty corner after just forty seconds, which was defended successfully.
Old Georgians took the lead in the twelfth minute, Edward Carson's shot bouncing against the backboard to the delight of the visiting supporters. However the lead was due to last just two minutes before Louis Gittens levelled from close range to give the Surbiton supporters something to cheer.
Surbiton goalkeeper, James Mazarelo made some good saves in the first half and George Pinner made an excellent double save on the half hour mark, first from Alex Williams and then Ben Park in a tight but attacking local derby.
What turned out to be the winning goal came right at the end of the first half, Henry Weir finishing off Old Georgians' second penalty corner in the 35th minute to give the visitors a psychological boost.
In the third quarter, Surbiton tried to build attacks from the back with Gittens having another shot saved by Pinner and Liam Sanford also working in defence for Old Georgians. Sam Ward, who has been in phenomenal scoring form this season with 21 goals, didn't add to his tally but made an attacking run as Old Georgians sought to extend their lead.
With fifteen minutes remaining, light rain, which had been forecast, finally started to fall with Ward, having shown his attacking qualities, happy to play his defensive quality as he won possession directly in front of the Surbiton goal before ensuring that the danger was cleared.
Surbiton' double penalty corner specialists, Luke Taylor and Gareth Furlong had to wait until the 66th minute for their first penalty corner opportunity, but Pinner was equal to the challenge to protect Old Georgians' lead.
Surbiton couldn't find an equaliser and Old Georgians were able to celebrate their ninth victory out of ten games, the only dropped points at home to Hampstead & Westminster.
Third placed Wimbledon closed to within a point of Surbiton following their 4-2 win at bottom club, Brooklands Manchester University.
Hampstead also remained within two points of Wimbledon courtesy of their 4-1 home win over Oxted, aiming to hold on to sixth place in the table.
East Grinstead's hopes of reaching the Top Six with another late run were ended as they crashed 4-1 at home to the University of Nottingham.
On Sunday, Holcombe can join Hampstead & Westminster on 20 points if they win at Beeston and Reading can leapfrog Oxted into the Top Six if they overcome the University of Exeter in Berkshire.
A win for Beeston would also see the Nottingham club overtake Oxted.