Men’s Hockey League Premier Division
Hampstead & Westminster 0 Surbiton 2
Surbiton mathematically need one point to ensure finishing top of the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division at the end of the regular season, but realistically, their 2-0 win at Hampstead on Sunday afternoon earned them top seeding for the playoffs and a place in the 2019-20 Euro Hockey League.
With a six point advantage and a superior 19 goal difference over their London rivals, with just two games remaining, only a very unlikely set of results can prevent Surbiton from finishing top.
The weather at Paddington Recreation Ground kept not only the players, but the spectators on their toes as the eagerly anticipated top of the table clash began in sunshine; followed by a brief rain shower; the sun returned before the game ended in a hailstorm with thunder heard after the final whistle.
The game itself turned into a tactical battle with Surbiton taking the initiative but unable to break down a resolute Hampstead defence in the first half. Tim Atkins forced a fine save from Hampstead goalkeeper, Toby Reynolds-Cotterill from Surbiton’s only penalty corner of the first half in the tenth minute, but goal chances were few and far between. Hampstead counter attacked but with neither side willing to take unnecessary risks, the first half ended goalless with both teams still confident of finding a way to win in the second half.
In a match of such magnitude, there was always going to be a level of physicality and Surbiton’s Sam Spencer saw yellow early in the second half for a foul on Hampstead captain, Toby Roche. Surbiton successfully defended the subsequent penalty corner and Surbiton goalkeeper, Harry Gibson saved from Hampstead’s next award four minutes later.
With thirteen minutes to play, with the game heading for a goalless draw, Surbiton took the lead, Alan Forsyth scoring his 25th goal of the season, getting a final touch to Dave Beckett’s shot with Reynolds-Cotterill wrongfooted.
Six minutes later, a brilliant individual goal by Zach Wallace from the left of the circle left Hampstead trailing 2-0 and with the only option of replacing their goalkeeper with a kicking back. Hampstead’s hopes virtually ended when Paul Melkert was shown yellow in the penultimate minute, when the hailstorm struck to probably sum up Hampstead’s day.
The match was not the nine goal thriller which had seen Hampstead win 5-4 in the corresponding fixture last season, but it was still significant as the playoffs approach in mid-April.
Surbiton and Hampstead are both playoff bound with Beeston likely to need a point to book their place. East Grinstead, Holcombe, Brooklands Manchester University and Reading are all still in playoff contention after East Grinstead lost 1-0 at Wimbledon on Saturday evening.
Holcombe missed the chance to move into fourth after being held to a 2-2 draw at the University of Exeter. Brooklands and Reading both won 6-4, Brooklands beating Sevenoaks to confirm the Kent club’s relegation after two seasons in the top flight and Reading came back from 3-0 down to beat Beeston.
Exeter will defend their Premier Division status via the Promotion Tournament as Wimbledon’s victory finally ended their slim risk of relegation.
Hampstead & Westminster:
Squad: Toby Reynolds-Cotterill (GK); Stephen Kelly, Richard Smith, Marc Edwards, Toby Roche (Capt,), Christopher Cargo, Rupert Shipperley, Paul Melkert, Sam French, Matt Guise-Brown, Kwan Browne.
Subs: James Oates (6 mins), Will Calnan (7), Kei Kaeppeler (7), James Chaffey (7), Jonny Gooch (8).
Cards: Green: Jonny Gooch (15 mins), Stephen Kelly (38 mins). Yellow: Paul Melkert (69 mins).
Scorers: Alan Forsyth 57-F, Zach Wallace 63-F
Squad: Harry Gibson (GK); Lewis Prosser, Ben Boon, Jonny Gall (Capt.), Zach Wallace, James Royce, Alan Forsyth, Brendan Creed, Hayden Beltz, Sam Spencer, James Gall.
Subs: Tom Sorsby (5 mins), Arjan Drayton Chana (5), Nick Parkes (5), Tim Atkins (7), Dave Beckett (7).
Cards: Green: James Gall (29 mins). Yellow: Sam Spencer (39 mins).
Match Official: David Collier
Umpires: Dan Barstow and Paul Walker
Colin Pike | Crayford Media