A repeat of last year’s final saw these two serve up a breathless spectacle of goals, incident and end-to-end action which left the spectators inside Wembley and those watching at home well and truly delighted with the evening’s entertainment.
East Grinstead had overcome Reading on penalties in the semi final after a 5-5 draw in normal time. Beeston despatched Bowdon by 11 goals to 3 in the other semi and looked in formidable form going into the final.
A sign of things to come was clearly given in the opening moments as Richard Potton in the East Grinstead goal was forced into action, denying Tim Davenport and Paddy Schmidt in quick succession.
After just two minutes, Davenport did manage to beat Potton with a low flick into the corner giving Beeston an early lead. Almost immediately some wonderful skill from East Grinstead’s Barry Middleton engineered a chance which George Pinner did well to save. The rebound fell to Ashley Jackson who uncharacteristically blazed over from just inside the D.
Pinner then denied David De Prez, before Jackson hit the post with a reverse stick shot. Beeston still had the lead, but were clearly rocking.
It wasn’t long before EG drew level. David De Prez finished well on the move after he had been played in by an excellent one-touch pass from the influential Middleton. De Prez was at it again just two minutes later showing extreme calm under pressure from a defender to slot the ball underneath Pinner to give his side the lead. With the crowd barely back in their seats, Daniel Koschyk scored another, showing great persistence to create and score the chance all himself. A minute later Koschyk grabbed his second and his side’s fourth, only for Paddy Schmidt to bury a short corner in the 15th minute to reduce the arrears to just two. The crowd were being treated to an unbelievable passage of play with goals coming thick and fast. Not to be outdone by Schmidt, Ashley Jackson fizzed home a short corner of his own to re-assert East Grinstead’s dominance. Tim Davenport scored his second goal of the game, lifting the ball over Potton after Ben Hawes had found him with an excellent first time pass. There was still time for Scott Ashdown to link up with De Prez to score another and send his side into half time 6-3 up.
Half time gave everyone a chance to catch their breath and to reflect on a pulsating 20 minutes of hockey. The two sides had been very evenly matched. The main differences had been East Grinstead’s ruthlessness in front of goal and Beeston giving the ball away in some dangerous areas. It looked, from the outside at least, that the Bees were trying too hard to force their patterns on the game, causing some unforced errors. Despite this, the game was still finely balanced going into the second half.
The second half picked up where the first had left off. Jackson went close before Davenport forced another terrific save from Potton. The fans didn’t have to wait long for another goal though: Jackson notched his second, beating Pinner at his near post from a tight angle with a ferocious flick.
With Paddy Schmidt’s aim slightly wayward from a short corner Beeston’s chances of salvaging the match started to look less and less by the minute. David De Prez completed his hat-trick on 29 minutes and looked like Grinstead were going to retain their crown once more.
With around 8 minutes to play, Beeston made their last throw of the dice, removing their goalkeeper to play with a kicking back. This move saw East Grinstead start to defend deeper, looking to protect their lead and hit Beeston on the break.
With time running out, Jackson showed terrific skill and strength to win a short corner. With no goalkeeper on the field it looked for all the world that Jackson would score again, but remarkably he saw his shot charged down by James McBlane, the kicking back.
Two late goals from Wood and then Schmidt saw Beeston add some respectability to the score line, but in truth, East Grinstead knew they had the game sewn up.
The man of the match award was given to Ashley Jackson who had shown his undoubted class on a big stage once more. In truth, David De Prez, who also grabbed a hat-trick in last year’s final can consider himself very unfortunate not to have edged his young team mate out. Both sides had some outstanding performances, with Pinner, Dixon and Davenport putting in fighting performances for their team that on another day could easily have won them the title.
In the end, East Grinstead’s experience, patience and calmness in front of goal gave them the edge over their opponents. To lose to the Sussex side when they are in this sort of form is no disgrace at all.
With the Olympics looming large on the horizon, tonight’s spectacular final in front of a packed house and millions watching at home will have done hockey’s profile no harm at all.