Now: Pensions, Championship Semi-Final: Surbiton 5-3 Canterbury.

A brace from James Gall set up a final with Beeston on Sunday as Surbiton swept aside a stubborn Canterbury team in the pouring rain at Sonning Lane.

Surbiton were first to threaten as James Tindall’s drag flick was repelled by Ben Cowling in the Canterbury goal. Tindall popped up at the other end minutes later, this time to clear a Kwan Browne flick off the line with an outrageous pick.

Browne’s influence was clear to see as he probed and threatened the Surbiton defence with a series of dangerous runs and passes.

It took until the 25th minute for the deadlock to be broken. Alex Penney, one of The Top of the D’s ones to watch found the corner with a low drag flick which beat Cowling to his right. Canterbury equalised three minutes later as a Michael Farrer cross was diverted to the back post by Harry Roberts where Ben Allberry was waiting to score from close range to make it 1-1.

Surbiton re-established their lead with Gall’s first of the day, the No.26 forcing home at the second attempt.

Canterbury drew level again three minutes after half-time. A cross from the left was deflected home by the evergreen David Mathews. Any hopes Canterbury had of getting a foothold in the game were dashed two minutes later, Tindall showed superb strength to break through two tackles, with Grassick pulling away to his left, the Surbiton top scorer turned provider and slid the ball to his teammate. His shot looped up off a combination of defender and goalkeeper and dropped inside the far post despite the efforts of the man on the line.

Surbiton had a great chance to put the game to bed as they were awarded a penalty stroke, but incredibly, Gall crashed his effort onto the bar. This briefly galvanised Canterbury and Chris Laslett should have brought them a goal, somehow slicing the ball up in the air with the goal gaping.

Cowling was keeping Canterbury afloat as he blocked from Ben Tibble and then James Royce, but there was nothing he could do to stop Johnny Ruiz’s calm finish in the 57th minute.

Gall managed to get another as he was afforded too much time and space in the D to deflect home a pass from Tibble. Canterbury didn’t give up and David Kettle was forced into a flying save from a Browne penalty corner, before the same player set up his side’s third from another corner in the last minute, scored by Andrew Dunn.

Surbiton continue their excellent post-Christmas run and will be raring to go as they hope to topple Beeston in the final. Canterbury must pick themselves up and try to salvage third place and a slot in Europe as they face Reading in the 3rd/4th playoff.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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