Surbiton hit back to steal a march over Holcombe in the play-off race
THREE goals in 12 second-half minutes killed off Holcombe’s hopes of victory in their battle for a playoff place with close rivals Surbiton.
However, their manager Keith Martin left the Long Ditton ground knowing that a simple statistic downloaded from Premier Division records still supports his belief that the Kent side can finish in the top five in the league table.
“Our aim is to finish the League matches with at least 34 points,” he said. “That is because in the entire history of the Premier Division no side that has won 34 points has not qualified for the end of season play-offs.
“We came here looking to get nine points from out last six games to get into the play-off and have a chance of qualifying to play in Europe, now that is down from six to five.
“But I am looking onwards and upwards because our next two games against teams involved in the relegation fight (Loughborough and Brooklands).
“If we win them then it’s only three points we will need from our last two games and making the play-offs is a good incentive for us.”
For all but four minutes of the match at Surbiton, however, Holcombe’s chances of making inroads into that nine-point target looked very feint under the floodlights which had to burn because of the 6pm push back.
Their team start sheet told one half of the story with the absence of five internationals – Barry Middleton and Iain Lewers playing in India, Sam Ward and David Ames out injured and Jonty Robinson stranded after a visit to South Africa while waiting for his UK visa to be renewed.
Surbiton, who also had their own absentees, named four colts in their side and it was only with minutes left before the push-off that coach Mark Pearn was relieved to be able to include captain Lewis Prosser and Robert Mugridge after having attended a Welsh training camp in Cardiff.
Yet in front of a healthy 500 crowd they were totally dominant from the first whistle with George Pinner in the Holcombe goal forced to save from Luke Noblett’s sixth-minute penalty corner and Nick Parkes shooting just wide when they got a second PC four minutes later.
Attack after attack was mounted on the Holcombe goal but while at the age of 33, Olympian Dan Fox may have retired from interna- tional hockey, at club level he remains a force to be reckoned with.
Not only did Fox’s tackling and interceptions break down several Surbiton raids he also surged quickly forward with several counter attacks but couldn’t find enough teammates breaking as quickly to make the most of his passes.
Holcombe also benefitted from two umpiring decisions in the space of 90 seconds. First, teenager Zach Wallace’s fast run ended with the ball in the goal but it was disallowed and soon after Alan Forsyth converted a penalty corner, only for the effort to be ruled out because the ball had been deflected onto his body before shooting.
On 46 minutes, however, against the run of play, Holcombe took the lead. James Davies’ run from deep fed Nick Bandurak and his pass was converted from close range by Gareth Andrew.
Surbiton’s response was almost instant and emphatic. Four minutes later they were level when Noblett scored from a penalty corner. Four minutes after that Johnny Gall scored from close range after open play and in the 63 minute Forsyth netted at the end of a counter attack.
Despite their lack of first half goals Surbiton’s manager Matt Jones was delighted his side had fought back so quickly to secure all three points.
He was also pleased to see the name of 22-year-old Forsyth on the scoresheet since the striker had only just returned from playing three games for Scotland in the space of four days in France, yet showed no signs of fatigue.
“Apart from our goalkeeper,” said Jones. “Alan spent more minutes on the pitch than anyone else – he has got an amazing engine.
“Despite those internationals in France he worked very hard for us. He has such a great ability to create chances but also to take them himself. He just gives great value to any team he plays for.
“I am absolutely delighted he scored and also that we won because it gives us more momentum as we try to make the play-offs.”
Good life: Surbiton’s David Goodfield races away from Richard Lane
Closely guarded: Surbiton’s Nick Parkes is tracked by Dan Fox PICTURES: Tim Reder