Surbiton Hockey Club will look to get to back to winning ways in the league at Sevenoaks tomorrow after a disappointing semi-final defeat to East Grinstead at the Jaffa Super 6s last weekend.
This was a re-run of last season’s final when Surbiton beat their opponents 12-5, but the team headed to the Copper Box Arena with eight players on international duty and were outclassed 3-1 by a side featuring England player Ashley Jackson.
Simon Faulkner opened the scoring for the West Sussex side, before quickfire strikes from Dominic Bowden and Ross Stott early in the second half put the game out of Surbiton’s reach, with Mark Pearn scoring a consolation effort.
Player-coach Pearn said: “We were missing eight players so we had to play a different way. We didn’t like sitting off and letting East Grinstead have a lot of the ball, but that’s what we had to do to try and save our legs.”
The most notable absentee was top goalscorer Alan Forsyth and Pearn felt the Scot could have provided some much-needed composure in front of goal against East Grinstead’s in-form goalkeeper.
“Against someone as good as Paddy Smith in goal, you need to have a bit of something about you in the circle and Alan’s got that,” he said.
“The guys did a great job. We hit the post a couple of times and it didn’t quite work for us.”
And because of the depleted squad, Pearn admitted emulating last season’s achievements was a big ask.
“I think if you’re being really honest, we didn’t think we could do that this year,” he said.
“Wimbledon and East Grinstead had settled squads and were strengthening.
“We were only able to get one training session together as a group. I thought we did really well considering the preparation we had, but there was never any expectation we would do as well as last year.”
Team Bath Buccaneers defeated Wimbledon in the other last-four clash, but East Grinstead proved just too strong for the Somerset outfit in the final, winning 3-2.
The club versus country debate is something that rages on in the sport and Pearn is not convinced the clubs will get any more bargaining power.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” he said.
“England said to some of our players they couldn’t play for fear of injury. There’s not a lot we can do about it at the moment. Indoor hockey’s a pretty low priority.”
Pearn has certainly played at a number of prestigious venues, but feels the Olympic Park site offers something special.
The 40-year-old said: “I’m very fortunate. I’ve played in places like Crystal Palace, the NIA Birmingham, Wembley, but this is a purpose-built indoor facility for something like handball.
“Hockey’s played in the same facility, so I think it’s a fantastic place to play.”
Feature image of Surbiton’s Brendan Creed surrounded by East Grinstead players, courtesy of Simon Parker, with thanks