Sur­biton hit back to steal a march over Hol­combe in the play-off race

The Hockey Paper - - MEN'S PREMIER DIVISION - by Gra­ham Ot­way

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

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