Dons defence too strong for rivals Surbiton in National Hockey League

Surbiton 1 Wimbledon 4

Wimbledon captain Ben Hawes thinks his side have the league’s best defence as they claimed a shock away win at league leaders Surbiton.

An impressive second-half display including goals from Phil Ball, Phil Roper and Jack Walker secured the 4-1 victory under floodlights at Sugden Road.

Having lost their first two games of the season, Wimbledon have now won six of their last seven and have opened up an eight point lead over fifth place Reading in the NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey Premier Division.

“Our defence is really strong and our goalie is making crucial saves at crucial times,” said three-time Olympian Hawes.

“It makes a big difference to our momentum. With Bailey in goal and George Farrant and Mikey Hoare, I don’t think there is a better defensive partnership around.

“We’ve also got a few older boys – the likes of me and Ben Marsden – who have experienced heads and can control the tempo.

“That mixture with the guys that are young and athletic in the middle is good at the moment.”

The Dons have statistically the strongest defensive in the league having conceded just 15 goals from their nine games.

“The standard of hockey in the first half was as good as it gets in this league from both side,” Hawes added.

“We had a slow start to the season but the quality in our team has stepped up hugely from last year and recently we’ve playing some really good hockey.

“We can beat anyone in this league, but we can also beat ourselves – which we have done a few times this year.

“If we can turn it around in the second half of the season and beat the sides we should beat then I think we will be pushing for the top four places, which is where we want to be.”

Ball netted the first of his two goals just before the half-hour mark to cancel out Matt Daly’s 15th minute penalty corner.

Roper then struck shortly after the break, his fifth in four games, before goals from Ball and then Walker in the space of seven second half minutes secured the win for the visitors.

Surbiton captain Ben Tibble admitted his side were off colour as they succumbed to just their second defeat of the campaign.

“It wasn’t our best performance, four soft goals killed us which was very disappointing,” he said.

“Wimbledon defended well but we missed our passes and made plenty of mistakes in areas you can’t really afford to.

“In top games against top teams you don’t get that many chances and our passing and trapping wasn’t good enough.”

Wimbledon now look forward to two crucial home games before Christmas – East Grinstead and Southgate – but will be without five key players for the latter as their internationals head to the Champions Trophy with Bobby Crutchley’s England

“East Grinstead next week is a massive game. We need to turn our away form into our home form and turn our pitch into a fortress,” said Hawes.

“That will be a big statement if we can get something out of next weekend, where we are underdogs again, and then beat Southgate whilst missing five players – that will give us great momentum into Christmas.”

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