England Hockey League, Men’s Premier Division: Reading 2-4 Canterbury.

Canterbury moved level on points with Beeston at the top of the Men’s Premier League with a terrific 4-2 win over Reading here at Sonning Lane.

Having seen their ladies play out an exciting 5-5 draw on the same pitch earlier on, Canterbury’s men came out of the blocks fast and took a two goal lead inside the first ten minutes. Nathanial Joy and a tenth minute own goal continued the flurry of goals the spectators at Reading Hockey Club had already enjoyed. Joy could have made it three as he was brilliantly found in the D by Kwan Browne but Reading goalkeeper James Bailey saved well to keep his side in it. Bailey was called into action almost immediately after, this time diving to his right to repel a penalty corner from Browne.

On 23 minutes Reading hauled themselves back into the match. Jon Codling got the faintest touch on a ball into the D and diverted it just inside the post beyond the despairing dive of Diccon Stubbings.  Five minutes later, the home side were level, Andy Watts, last season’s top scorer reacted quickest when the ball popped up in the D to volley home a splendid finish.

The game was reminiscent of a basketball match with the teams going end to end in search of more goals. Liam Foster missed a great chance for Canterbury at the back post after Ross Gilham-Jones had done brilliantly to manufacture a cross. At the other end Chris Newman went close with a deflection but Stubbings was equal to the task and made the save.

With the sides level at the break it was anyone’s game. Both sides traded chances as Watts drew another save out of Stubbings whilst at the other end Bailey somehow kept out a deflection with a wonderful diving save.

A break out of defence in the 48th minute from Canterbury resulted in the ball falling to Browne on the edge of the D. With time and space to steady himself he hit an incredible shot which went in off the post to make it 3-2.

With Reading pushing forward to try and snatch an equaliser, gaps were starting to appear at the back. Canterbury continued to threaten on the break. A long pass from Browne found Gilham-Jones who rounded Bailey and hit a reverse stick shot into the goal for 4-2.

Reading threw the kitchen sink at Canterbury for the remainder of the game. Jack Hardy squandered a good chance, shooting wide when in space in the D and Chris Newman was unlucky with a blistering tomahawk that some of the crowd thought had gone in.

With five minutes left Reading had a chance to make the remaining time very interesting as they forced a penalty corner. Richard Mantell stepped up but sent his low flick wide of the post. There was still time for Darren Cheesman to win another corner, but with the umpires calling time, the result was secure. For good measure, Michael Farrer kept out Mantell with an outrageous goal line clearance to preserve the 4-2 lead and take all three points.

It had been an absorbing contest which could easily have gone either way. In the end, Canterbury’s ruthlessness in front of goal made the difference. Next week Canterbury host Hampstead and Westminster and Reading travel to Brooklands MU.

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