Men’s Hockey League Premier Division
East Grinstead 2 Surbiton 3
Surbiton kept their two point lead in the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division, but their nearest rivals are now Beeston rather than East Grinstead, who lost their first home game of the season on Sunday afternoon.
East Grinstead also tasted defeat for the first time since their first league game of the season at Brooklands Manchester University, but battled hard before finally going down to a late Alan Forsyth strike.
Surbiton goalkeeper, Harry Gibson had been tested after just eighteen seconds, having to kick away an East Grinstead cross and the home team went close in pursuit of victory and the opportunity to take over the leadership of the division.
In the ninth minute, the opportunity became more realistic as Andy Piper broke the deadlock from the right of the circle, the ball nestling in Surbiton’s netting.
However Surbiton’s determination to defend their national league crown was proven as they turned the match around with two goals in two minutes. First, the ball was pulled back for Willie Marshall to find the backboard in the 14th minute, before Forsyth crossed from the right for Nick Parkes to turn the ball in, in the 16th minute to give Surbiton a 2-1 lead.
East Grinstead fought back on the half hour, Ross Stott finishing a fast attacking move to give both teams something to play for in the second half.
With both teams playing attacking hockey and trying to work out how to break down their opponents’ defences, no penalty corners were forced during the first half. That run ended in the 42nd minute, Surbiton goalkeeper Harry Gibson forced to make a save after the East Grinstead routine threatened to break down.
East Grinstead goalkeeper, Patrick Smith denied Surbiton’s Luke Taylor in turn three minutes later, but the save was turned into an East Grinstead breakaway attack which fortunately for the visitors resulted in a shot wide of the goal.
With five minutes to play, it seemed that the game was destined to end in a draw, but Forsyth had the last word, receiving the ball from David Goodfield before shooting from the left of the circle into the netting beyond Smith to give Surbiton all three points.
Surbiton successfully ran out the clock by forcing a penalty corner, Taylor again thwarted by Smith in added on time before the ball was cleared from the circle to end the game.
East Grinstead dropped to third, five points behind Surbiton, whilst Beeston won 4-2 at Sevenoaks to stay two points behind the leaders. Reading missed the chance to move up to third on Saturday night when Hampstead & Westminster won 3-2 at Sonning Lane. Also on Saturday, Holcombe closed the gap on the Berkshire club with a 5-1 win at Kent rivals, Canterbury, who stay bottom of the table on goal difference behind Sevenoaks.
Wimbledon moved above Brooklands Manchester University into seventh with a 3-1 win in the North West to pull away from the bottom of the table.
Surbiton host Reading on 11 November as Sugden Road stages another Saturday night fixture (push back 6 pm).
Report: Colin Pike | 5 November 2017