A hat-trick from Niall Stott ensured East Grinstead moved on to tonight’s final with a dominant display against Kent side Holcombe, running out 9-3 winners.
Holcombe set themselves up very deep aiming to frustrate East Grinstead and hit them on the break. Initially the tactic seemed to pay off as first Dan Fox and then Gareth Andrew forced Filip Neusser into saves.
Despite their early pressure Holcombe fell behind in the seventh minute as Stott opened the scoring with a powerful penalty corner. It was more of the same in the 13th minute as Stott repeated the trick for his, and his team’s second. A minute later he completed his hat-trick after Holcombe lost the ball high up the pitch. With goalkeeper Allan Dick off the field Stott drove into the D and scored into an empty net.
Holcombe looked stunned and East Grinstead notched a fourth just a minute later after Mark Pearn did well to get to the baseline before cutting back for Adam Jordan to lift the ball into the net from close range. The reigning champions were now running riot and David Appleton lost possession inside his own half allowing David Condon another run at an empty goal to make it 5-0.
Holcombe rallied and built some attacks of their own. Gareth Andrew did well to find some space on the left of the D but Neusser was out quickly to block. The giant Czech bettered that save with a smart reaction stop from Richard Lane’s deflection just minutes later.
East Grinstead re-asserted control as the clock ticked towards half-time. Joe Naughalty was denied by a wonderful save from Dick who was up quickly to block the rebound from Jordan. The Holcombe goalkeeper was helpless moments later however as he saved well from Ross Stott, only for Naughalty to drill home the rebound.
After the break Holcombe tried hard to maintain some pride. With three minutes of the half gone Lane beat Neusser from a penalty corner to make it 6-1 only for East Grinstead to net a seventh through Condon just two minutes later.
Ross Stott got in on the goalscoring act with 12 minutes left, driving down the right before slotting into an unguarded net once more.
Holcombe reduced the arrears as Appleton snapped up a rebound from a save by substitute goalkeeper Richard Potton and then Michael Hughes squeezed the ball under the goalkeeper to make it 8-3. East Grinstead had the final word, however as a slick break resulted in Jordan netting his second and his team’s ninth.
East Grinstead moved onto the final where they would chase a record sixth consecutive title facing either Canterbury or Reading.