The Top of the D has already given you the low-down on the two teams contesting the first semi final in the end of season play-offs in part one here. Today, it is the turn of the teams who placed second and third in the league and who face each other this weekend in the other semi final: Canterbury and Surbiton.
It has been a fantastic season for the side from Kent as they finished in 3rd place and set up a tie with second-placed Surbiton in the Championship semi-finals. Having come up from the East Conference it was difficult to predict how Canterbury would do, a feeling backed up by their 7-1 humbling by Beeston in their second game back in the top flight. After that game they went on an unbeaten run which took in wins over, amongst others, Surbiton and Reading to put them in pole position for a play-off place at the Christmas break.
The Polo Farm outfit struggled a little bit after the festive period, losing four of their seven games, including an 8-1 defeat at the hands of Reading. They did manage a hard-fought win over Cannock, which ultimately secured their place in the play-offs, showing they can rise to the occasion even when the pressure’s on.
They are the only side in the division to go the whole season without drawing a single game, so it is very much an “all or nothing” situation when you are dealing with Canterbury. Their goals for and against tally tells a story too: 59 goals scored is the second most in the league, 57 against is the third highest, only Brooklands (who have been relegated) and Loughborough conceded more. It is fair to say they have adopted a “you score 4, we’ll score 5” approach, so Canterbury will provide entertainment, whatever the outcome.
Final League Position: 3rd place.
League Record: P: 18 W: 10 D: 0 L: 8 F: 59 A: 57 GD: 2 Pts: 30.
Players to watch: Michael Farrer is the team’s top goalscorer with 13 league goals this season. Ten of those have come from penalty corners, the other three from open play. Farrer is the Canterbury captain and leads his side with pride. Expect him to be driving them on right up until the final whistle is blown.
Obviously Kwan Browne is still a hugely influential figure, even at 35 years of age. His fitness, skill and range of passing mean he can still pull the strings and make Canterbury tick. He is a potent weapon on penalty corners and chips in with his share of goals.
Another player to keep an eye out for is Ross Gilham-Jones. The 21-year-old forward has this week been named in the Great Britain development squad, showing those at the top of the British game rate his potential very highly. A forward with great pace and good technical skills, Gilham-Jones has an appreciation of his teammates around him and regularly creates chances for others as well as scoring himself. He will be a threat to any defence and has a big future in the game.
Surbiton are back for another go at the play-offs after qualifying last year, but failing to reach the final. They actually had a patchy start to the season, winning just three games and drawing four before Christmas to leave them chasing the leading pack. A blistering second half of the season has seen them win six games and draw just one after the festive break, beating all the other play-off contenders along the way to come from nowhere to finish second in the league and set up a tie with Canterbury in the semi-finals.
Their success has been built on a solid defensive foundation, conceding just 39 goals, the second fewest in the league behind leaders Beeston. They have also shown they are decent at scoring goals, netting 54 times to give them the second best goal difference in the league, again second to Beeston.
Surbiton have also shown they have the stomach for a one-off knock out match as they have made it to the finals of the EH Cup, where they will face Hampstead and Westminster. With that in mind, the end of season play-off format may just suit them.
Final League Position: 2nd place.
League Record: P: 18 W: 9 D: 5 L: 4 F: 54 A: 39 GD: 15 Pts: 32.
Players to watch: James Tindall has put the disappointment of missing out on a medal at the London Olympics behind him and been in superb form in front of goal. Tindall has scored 18 league goals, 16 of which have come from open play. The striker doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for his skill on the ball and predator’s instinct, due in part to his physical presence and robust style. Make no mistake about it though, the Great Britain star has the skills and the determination to score the goals that will take his side to the final.
Alex Penney has also had a fine season of goalscoring. The 25-year-old has managed nine league goals, seven from penalty corners, as well as seven goals in the cup to cap an excellent campaign for the former Cannock player.
You also can’t look past Rob Moore. An international class player of huge experience, Moore has been there and done it. He has the ability to create chances for his team mates and knows where the goal is himself. His experience and big game temperament will be very valuable to his side indeed.
Both semi finals and the final will take place at Reading Hockey Club this weekend. You can buy tickets here and find out all the information you need here.
It promises to be a weekend of high drama and great entertainment and is not one to be missed. Match reports will appear on TheTopoftheD.com over the course of the weekend.