All the action from the final day of the Premier League season
BY holding a ‘Dutchstyle’ hockey party, Surbiton attracted a crowd of more than 500 to their final game of the season against their close neighbours Wimbledon.
With the sun shining, the many children in the crowd were more than happy to sample the products of an ice cream van and their mothers smiled when they discovered that their £5 entry fee included a refreshing glass of Prosecco.
However, later in the afternoon as a live band played music in the Sugden Road clubhouse, one topic dominated a lot of conversations
It was the dramatic Surbiton fightback from the depths of despair at 3-0 down shortly after halftime to take a point off the Premier League champions when Luke Noblett slammed home a penalty corner with just a minute of the game remaining.
And the Australian thoroughly enjoyed the huge cheers from the sidelines which followed his late strike
“It was just great to be playing in front of a big crowd like that,” said the 23-year-old Sydneysider. “Especially because it was a home game and all my mates were here as well as my mum and day who are over here on holiday.
“And what a great reaction I got to scoring the equaliser in the last two minutes of the game. It was certainly the loudest applause I have heard during my first season over here.
“We showed a lot of fighting spirit. Now as we head for the plays-off we are going to have confidence from the way we fought back at the end of the game and hopefully we will be able to draw upon that and get the place to play in the European Hockey League.”
Although a brilliant reaction save from Wimbledon goalkeeper James Bailey had denied Noblett a goal in the second minute of the game, the visitors quickly took control in a style that befitted this year’s league winners.
In the 13th minute, Phil Ball crashed home their opener from an acute angle and soon after a swift counter-attack saw Johnny Kinder add a second.
Bailey also kept out another goalbound effort from Noblett just before the half-time whistle and when the big contingent of Wimbledon fans let out a big cheer when Borja Llorens scored their third from a 42nd minute penalty corner the game looked over as a contest.
However, in the Surbiton camp there was inspiration to be drawn from last season’s Premier League results when after trailing 3-1 at Wimbledon the team had fought back to earn a 3-3 draw.
And their coach Mark Pearn later said the woeful start and second half turnaround followed a pattern that had dominated their league campaign this season and yet still earned them a place in next month’s play-offs.
“It’s been the same story of so many games,” he said. “We have had too many slow starts where we have conceded early goals and had to fight our way back.
“But we have only lost one game, the first of the season at Holcombe, and we have fought back to get a lot of draws. But it is hard to beat teams which play at high tempo for the whole game.
“We are tough to beat but we need more quality and application throughout the whole of games.
“And it is important that over the next three weeks the guys dig deep because the play-offs mean so much.”
The Surbiton turnaround was launched in the 47th minute by Arjan Drayton-Chana whose goal will be remembered not just because it was his first of the season but also because he struck the ball with such power.
The reactions of the two teams to the change on the electronic scoreboard were very different.
Clearly lifted, Surbiton went on the attack and in a series of skirmishes inside the Wimbledon D were awarded a number of penalty corners with
Gareth Furlong converting one of them eight minutes later. Wimbledon’s response was to argue so much with the umpires about their decisions that they were handed out two green cards and a yellow one.
And the one sour note of a highly skilful and hotly contested match was the repeated sight of the replacements in the visitors’ dugout leaping from their seats and hollering their displeasure.
Some of the language used was certainly out of place when so many children were at Sugden Road with their parents hoping they would take up hockey. Wimbledon coach Ben Hawes wisely left the umpiring issue out of his after-match comments but he did acknowledge that he will not want to see his team’s second half shortcomings repeated in the coming weeks.
“We lacked concentration when it really mattered,” he said. “And against a good side that hurts. With the knock-out games we have got coming up, lapses like that can kill you.
“We have thrown away leads before. We need to be able to kill games off better.”
Luke at that! Luke Noblett celebrates scoring Surbiton’s equaliser after Arjan DraytonChana began the fightback, inset PICTURES: Tim Reder
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