Surbiton men crowned England Hockey league finals champions after thrilling comeback

Surbiton men pulled off an incredible comeback to beat fellow south west London side Wimbledon in a shootout in the hockey League Finals Weekend finale.

After falling 3-0 down following goals from Phil Ball, Henry Weir and Simon Mantell, Surbiton launched their comeback with just eight minutes left in the game.

Alan Forsyth and a Gareth Furlong double leveled the scores at 3-3, in the showpiece event at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, before David Beckett netted the crucial winner as Surbiton triumphed 3-2 in the shootout.

The result meant Wimbledon’s dreams of three successive championships were dashed but it was a day of delight for the newly crowned victors.

“It feels pretty special if I’m honest,” said Surbiton coach Mark Pearn.

“We felt we played really well in patches through the game but just didn’t get any reward or didn’t score goals when we were actually on top.

“Fair play to Wimbledon. They’re a dogged side, a quality side, and they took their chances.

“When you end up 3-0 down with eight minutes to go you’re thinking the worst.

“But we’ve come back against them before so we always felt we just needed that first goal. We always knew we’d fight back.”

With 10 minutes played Ball managed to turn in Phil Roper’s cross from close range to put Wimbledon a goal to the good.

The Dons had to wait until the third quarter before doubling their lead as Weir netted from a penalty corner.

Mantell then added a third in the final quarter before Surbiton launched their stunning comeback.

League top scorer Forsyth scored from a penalty corner with eight minutes remaining to give them hope before man-of-the-match Furlong netted a double from short corners.

His first came with four minutes to go before he drew Surbiton level with just one minute and 13 seconds remaining on the clock.

Surbiton then triumphed in the resulting shootout with Beckett notching the decisive winner.

“Truthfully, not really,” said Pearn when asked if he thought the comeback was possible.

“When you get that close to the end of the game, and you see the score line, instinct kicks in and you think it’s pretty unlikely.

“The one thing I will say about my players is that they never give up and I just felt we would always come back – I just didn’t think we would have enough time to score three goals.

“I’ve got to teach tomorrow so there will be a small celebration tonight,” Pearn added.

“Come the end of season dinner we will celebrate properly.

“It’s the first time the club have won the title, it’s been an amazing season, and we’ll want to celebrate it.”

For Wimbledon it was a day of disappointment as they were left to ponder what might have been.

“The really frustrating thing is that game went similarly to the two we had against them when we had been ahead,” said Wimbledon striker Mantell.

“We let them get back into the game and that’s what makes it even more difficult I think.

“We knew what to expect, we knew that even at 3-0 we hadn’t closed out the game and they got back into it.

“I think bar the first five minutes of today we made a massive step up from yesterday – both physically and technically,” he added.

“Really we dominated the game for the next 50 minutes.

“Unfortunately that’s not good enough, you’ve got to play well for 60 minutes or at least ride those periods where the other team have more possession.”

Despite the result Mantell emphasized how proud the team should be with their achievements and highlighted that the loss will only make them hungrier in future.

“When you step back from the season, and today, we’ll obviously be proud of the ground we made in Europe and proud of winning the league,” he said.

“But this is where it really counts so it hurts even more and it’ll make us hungrier for next year.”

“We’ve obviously lost the chance to make it three championships in a row.

“But we’ve got to go back, regroup over the summer, and come back stronger next year.”

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