Men’s Hockey League Premier Division – Top Six
East Grinstead 1 Surbiton 2
Surbiton moved up to second in the Men’s Hockey League Premier Division Top Six by returning to winning ways after ending 2021 by going three games without a win by beating East Grinstead for the second time this season in West Sussex.
East Grinstead, who had finished 2021 by winning their last three games to pip Oxted to a Top Six place, were far more competitive than in the first meeting, which they had lost 6-1 and the vociferous home supporters were unhappy that they hadn’t at least started the second half of the season with a hard-earned point.
Surbiton’s victory came courtesy of a dramatic last four minutes which saw East Grinstead level before the visitors snatched back all three points due to a second clinical penalty corner conversion.
Under the Saint Hill floodlights and in a bitterly cold wind, the first half ended goalless with Surbiton’s Ben Park pulling a shot past the right post and a couple of cross pitch passes in the Surbiton 23, the only real highlights of a possession dominated and defences on top first 35 minutes.
Surbiton have not had a goalless draw during the Premier Division regular season since they drew at Saint Hill in November 2008, but both teams’ first half performance seriously suggested that there might be a repeat after just over 13 years, especially when the visitors’ penalty corner specialist, Luke Taylor, didn’t really come close to scoring from the only award of the first half.
However, the situation changed in the 44th minute when Gareth Furlong duly converted from Surbiton’s second penalty corner to put the visitors ahead.
Taylor and Furlong both failed to score from subsequent set-pieces to the delight of the home support and in the 66th minute, it seemed that Surbiton might have cause for regret, when Jamie Wallace, the scorer of East Grinstead’s consolation goal in the first match, breached the Surbiton defence once again for a much more valuable reward.
Two minutes later, Surbiton won their fifth penalty corner of the match and to the home supporters’ immense frustration, Taylor converted to give Surbiton what could prove to be a pivotal victory in their quest to retain the league title they won in 2020.
That wasn’t the end of the drama, Furlong received a nominal yellow card on the final whistle as the game ended in a tense atmosphere before the teams exchanged handshakes afterwards.
Surbiton host leaders Old Georgians in another Saturday night floodlight classic next Saturday, with Old Georgians holding a five point advantage over their hosts after coming from behind to beat Hampstead & Westminster 3-1 at home. Wimbledon lost ground and dropped to third, on goal difference behind Surbiton after going down 1-0 at Holcombe.
Scorer: Jamie Wallace 66-F
Starters: Richard Curtis (GK); Luke Emmett, Daniel Faulkner (Capt.), Jamie Wallace, Lewis Prosser, Sam Hatherley, Louis Gittens, Ben Mackey, Tim Deakin, Nick Catlin, Alistair Clift.
Subs: Rob Cope (6 mins), Luke Holland (7), Ross Stott (9), Ollie Lander (10), Gurmukhi Bhamra (11).
Scorers: Gareth Furlong 44-PC, Luke Taylor 68-PC
Starters: Luke Taylor, Tom Sorsby, Jonny Gall (Capt.), Tim Nurse, Jamie Golden, Ben Park, David Goodfield, Nick Park, Adam Buckle, Gareth Furlong, Ore Ogunlana (GK).
Subs: Jack Middleton (5 mins), Ben Boon (6), Sam Spencer (6), Jamie Taylor (9).
Cards: Green: Tom Sorsby (56 mins), Yellow: Gareth Furlong (70 mins).
Match Official: Harry Stickland
Umpires: Mark Jarvis and Campbell Reeman