Beeston goalkeeper George Pinner was his team’s hero as he saved four shuffles in the penalty shootout, crucially keeping Simon Mantell out in sudden death to steer the Bees through to Sunday’s final.
The game had finished 2-2 in normal time and at the end of extra time after Tom Carson’s last minute equaliser completed the Sonning Lane side’s comeback. In the end, it just wasn’t their day, however.
The opening quarter was a cagey affair, Simon Egerton went close with a looping shot just over the bar and James Bailey was out quickly to smother from David Ames. At the other end, Simon Mantell deflected Tom Carson’s penalty corner pass over the bar. Beeston took the lead late in the quarter, Carl Smith, a scorer in Beeston’s EHL KO16 match got a vital deflection past Bailey to make it 1-0.
Reading had another penalty corner chance in the second quarter, this time going direct via Richard Mantell, but Tim Lewis on the line got a touch to divert it around the post. Jonty Clarke wasted a great chance, clearing the crossbar from near the penalty spot after great link up play between Chris Newman and Huw Jones. Pinner made a stick save from another Richard Mantell penalty corner and then an even better save from a deflection from Chris Cargo.
The third quarter became a bit scrappy with the weather worsening all the time. Bailey saved from an Egerton penalty corner before Martin Jones broke free down the right hand side and found a cross. The ball was initially kept out by Bailey, falling to Adam Dixon who hit an excellent reverse stick shot into the top corner.
Reading hit back in the 63rd minute. A simple turn and lovely reverse stick finish from Newman gave his team a glimmer of hope. With time running out Bailey was withdrawn, so Reading could go to 11 outfield players. It paid immediate dividends with Newman finding Darren Cheesman who in turn fed Carson for a dramatic equaliser.
Extra time came and went with a penalty corner each coming to nought and it was time for penalties.
Egerton and Simon Mantell both scored, before Bailey saved from Michael Hoare. Pinner returned the favour saving from Cargo. Dixon and Cheesman both scored, before Harry Martin, Julius Breucker, David Ames and Jonty Clarke all missed, taking it to Sudden Death. Cheesman and Egerton both buried their shuffles but then, a brilliant piece of goalkeeping from Pinner stopped Simon Mantell. Harry Martin stepped up, this time getting the better of Bailey to give Beeston the win.
A topsy-turvy game, but one which left the cold, wet spectators feeling like they had been thoroughly entertained. The Bees now await the winners of Surbiton vs. Canterbury