Reading snatched England’s final qualification place for next year’s Euro Hockey League after a comfortable 4-0 win over Canterbury, gave the Sonning Lane side third place in the Now: Pensions England Hockey League.
Reading signalled their intent from the very start with Jon Codling getting round the back in the first minute but his cross evaded everyone. Ben Cowling was called into action to save from Richard Mantell’s low penalty corner and was then helped out by captain Michael Farrer who cleared off the line from the same player just minutes later. Reading’s attacking endeavours were rewarded in the first quarter as they took the lead in style on 11 minutes. Darren Cheesman picked up the ball inside the D on the right. He dropped a shoulder and jinked past the defender before rifling the ball into the top corner. It was a splendid individual goal.
Quarter two arrived but the pattern of the game did not change. Chris Newman was played in by Chris Cargo but his cross was smuggled away by Cowling who then did well to save from Cargo with his legs. Reading forced another penalty corner but Tom Carson’s pass for a Simon Mantell deflection was well defended by Canterbury.
The Polo Farm side rallied briefly at the start of the second half with Harwinder Chima crossing into the D but James Bailey was alert and cleared the danger. Simon Mantell made a fine run down the right and crossed for Cheesman but his deflection was smothered by Cowling. Kwan Browne wasted a penalty corner chance, flicking high and wide and that was the end of quarter 3.
Cowling was keeping his team in it and made two more saves from Jonty Clarke and Richard Mantell as reading threatened to run riot. Craig Peel finally doubled the lead in the 62nd minute when he was allowed time and space to advance into the D and hit a reverse stick shot through Cowling for 2-0.
Canterbury were reduced to ten men as Stuart Goodman was yellow carded for dissent and then Kwane Browne was given a suspension and had to sit out, too. With a numerical advantage Reading punished Canterbury with two quick goals to put a gloss on the scoreline. Harry Slater drove into the D unopposed and hit a low shot into the corner before Simon Mantell found the roof of the net to make it 4-0.
Canterbury were despondent, knowing that they would miss out on Europe after a terrific season. Reading, though not taking home the title they won last year, will move on to Europe for another tilt at the EHL.
I think ‘comfortable’ is a bit harsh on Canterbury. Reading definitely had the better of the opening exchanges but once Canterbury had settled into the game they looked like they could have taken the win. Sat in the stands even the Reading supporters thought that Canterbury were hard done by the umpires, and had they been awarded a blatent corner they may well have got the goal they needed at 1-0 down and gone on to win.
That’s the beauty of sport. Everyone has their opinions and sometimes two different people can view things in totally different ways. My feeling, and the feeling of those sat around me was that Canterbury threatened on occasions but Reading defended well enough to limit their chances. James Bailey hardly had a save to make, whereas Ben Cowling was called upon numerous times. That’s not to say Canterbury played badly, I just felt save for a few moments, Reading seemed to have most things under control. Remember, these reports are the games as I saw them, so other people may have their own, different conclusions!