East Grinstead swept to their sixth consecutive indoor title with an 8-4 win over Canterbury in what proved to be a hugely entertaining encounter. Ross Stott and Mark Pearn grabbed two goals apiece to fire the Sussex side to the title but it was the performance of Czech International ‘keeper Filip Neusser that caught the eye. The giant goalkeeper made a series of crucial saves during the first half to preserve his team’s lead and was deservedly named the player of the match.
Canterbury threatened early on. Skipper Tom Richford did well to reach the baseline and cut the ball back to Hardeep Jawanda but Neusser scrambled across his goal well to make a splendid save with his right arm to divert the ball to safety. The goalkeeper required treatment on the blow but carried on playing, to great effect.
It took six minutes for the game’s first goal to arrive. With goalkeeper Diccon Stubbings off the field East Grinstead turned the ball over in their own half. Pearn drove the length of the court before slipping it to David Condon who gleefully fired into the empty net to make it 1-0.
With the goalkeeper substitutions in full effect Ben Alberry had a gilt-edged chance to draw the sides level. With Neusser in the process of re-joining the play the ball fell to the Canterbury striker who shot first time, only to see the goalkeeper dive full-length to get a stick to the ball to keep it out. The Czech continued to defy the Kent side as he made a treble save off a slick passing move from Canterbury. First he got a foot to Allberry’s effort, then he blocked the follow up and finally saved with his glove from Ali Bray’s flicked shot.
East Grinstead took full advantage of their goalkeeper’s heroics and doubled their lead on ten minutes with a penalty corner from Simon Faulkner. Canterbury halved the deficit three minutes later, Kwan Browne cashed in on the lack of goalkeeper on a penalty corner to rifle the ball into the net past the helpless man on the line. Bray threatened again after he won the ball in the EG half but once again Neusser made the save.
Pearn gave his side a two-goal cushion in the last minute of the half with another goal on the break into the empty net but there was still time for Browne to convert another penalty corner to leave it finely poised at 3-2 at the break.
As was the case in the first half, East Grinstead were first to strike in the second period. A patient build up of several passes resulted in Kirkham finding Pearn on the right, the former Reading man crossed to the far post where Joe Naughalty had the simple task of putting the ball in the net to make it 4-2. As they had in the league meeting between these sides, the Polo Farm side showed terrific determination to get back into the game. Two minutes later Browne burst forward on the left, he found Allberry with a lovely pass into the D. Neusser was once again scrambling back to the goal but this time the Kent side’s top scorer didn’t give him a chance and despatched the ball into the goal for 4-3.
There was hardly time for the crowd to draw breath as East Grinstead notched another goal. Ross Stott collected the ball just inside the D on the left, rolled inside and fired a splendid finish high, past the despairing dive of the goalkeeper. Stott grabbed his second in the 29th minute, converting a Glenn Kirkham cross from close range to make it 6-3. East Grinstead sensed the sixth title was there for the taking and made it seven with just six minutes left on the clock. Yet again, it was from a turnover and yet again, Pearn rolled the ball into an empty net. A minute later, Niall Stott, the hero of the semi-final got his name on the scoresheet with a simple finish after Pearn had robbed Bray just outside the Canterbury D. With three minutes left to play Browne completed his hat-trick with a searing penalty corner into the top corner to make it 8-4 but despite two more saves from Neusser and a penalty corner on the final whistle for the Kent side, the game was up.
East Grinstead scooped their sixth consecutive indoor title, setting a new record. Canterbury had shown a terrific improvement and were a great opponent for the side from Saint Hill but in the end there was no stopping Mark Pearn’s team.