Men’s Hockey League Premier Division
Surbiton 2 East Grinstead 1
The match between Hampstead and Westminster and Surbiton on 17 March at Paddington Recreation Ground is increasingly looking like being a decider to determine which team will finish top of the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division at the end of the regular season after both teams won their games for the second week running.
Surbiton laid down a challenge to Hampstead after coming from behind to beat East Grinstead 2-1 on Saturday night to open up a three point overnight lead, Hampstead responding in emphatic fashion, beating Reading 3-0 at home on Sunday afternoon, Matt Guise Brown and Richard Smith converting first half penalty corners with Stephen Kelly adding the third from open play with five minutes remaining.
East Grinstead, having been in Croatia the previous weekend, just missing out on European indoor hockey promotion, played their first outdoor league match of 2019.
Just as in the Ladies’ game immediately beforehand, East Grinstead Men took an early lead at Sugden Road, Tijn van Groesen shooting into the netting in the third minute from the visitors’ first penalty corner of the match.
Surbiton replied two minutes later, Hayden Beltz scoring his first league goal for the club from open play, beating East Grinstead goalkeeper, Patrick Smith from short range as Surbiton’s forwards put the visiting defence under pressure.
Surbiton could have taken the lead in the tenth minute, Arjan Drayton Chana finding David Goodfield in the circle, only for Goodfield’s shot to rebound off the crossbar.
Defences were mainly on top for the rest of the first half, but Drayton Chana posed another threat three minutes before half time, an aerial ball perfectly controlled by Ben Boon before the subsequent shot rebounded off the outside of the right sideboard to East Grinstead’s relief.
In the second half, both teams tried to attack, but having had two goals in the opening five minutes, the game seemed to change into chess like battle, both teams trying to find the right tactic to make the next breakthrough but defences always seeming to know how to stifle their opposition’s attacks.
The match was decided from the penalty spot with eight minutes to play. With regular taker, Alan Forsyth having been a member of the Great Britain squad which lost 2-0 to Australia earlier that day, Drayton Chana took on the responsibility and just did enough to beat Smith with a shot into the netting just above the backboard.
Another bumper crowd, including several East Grinstead supporters enjoyed a match which was hard fought under the Sugden Road floodlights, the visitors putting in a much improved performance from the first meeting which Surbiton won 4-0 at Saint Hill.
Beeston stayed five points behind the top two with a 4-0 win at Holcombe. Reading missed the opportunity to move up into the playoff places with their defeat at Hampstead. Instead, Brooklands Manchester University are just four points adrift of fourth following their 3-2 home win over Wimbledon, although both East Grinstead and Holcombe have a game in hand which is scheduled for 23 February at East Grinstead.
On Saturday night, the University of Exeter beat Sevenoaks 3-2 for the second time this season to increase their chances of avoiding automatic relegation by holding a four point lead over bottom team Sevenoaks. Exeter are now level on points with Wimbledon.
Scorers: Hayden Beltz 5-F, Arjan Drayton Chana 62-PS
Squad: Tim Atkins, Lewis Prosser, Tom Sorsby, Jonathan Gall (Capt.), Arjan Drayton Chana, William Marshall, James Royce, David Goodfield, Hayden Beltz, Taylor Seager-Green (GK); Nicholas Parkes.
Subs: Ben Boon (5 mins), Sam Spencer (7), Rory Calnan (7), Scott Jones (8), Scott Evans (24)
Scorer: Tijn van Groesen 3-PC
Squad: Patrick Smith (GK); Daniel Faulkner, Wesley Jackson, Dominic Bowden, David Condon, Tijn van Groesen, Simon Faulkner (Capt.), Ben Mackey, Alistair Clift, Liam Ansell, Rory Patterson.
Subs: Matthew Blood (6 mins), Luke Tyne (6), Dylan Holland (6), Andy Yiu (7), Samad Suleman (8).
Match Official: Richard Chere
Umpires: David Monger and Campbell Reeman