Canterbury erased the pain of their semi-final defeat in last year’s competition with a dramatic 9-8 win over Reading in a pulsating contest. Doubles from Ali Bray, Liam Foster as well as a late strike from Hardeep Jawanda did the trick as Reading came up just short.
Canterbury drew first blood. Foster drove down the right and cut back to Bray who produced an accomplished finish to make it 1-0. James Bailey was called into action to block from Tom Richford first and then from Jawanda as Canterbury pushed for a second.
Reading started to edge back into the game and some wonderful individual skills from Darren Cheesman won their first penalty corner of the game. Diccon Stubbings got out quickly in the Canterbury goal to charge down Richard Mantell’s flick.
On ten minutes Liam Foster doubled the lead with a deflection from a cross from the left. In the same minute Richard Springham reduced the arrears with a calm finish, rounding Stubbings and sliding the ball into the goal for 2-1. Reading then equalised three minutes later with a lovely finish from Jonty Clarke who waited for the goalkeeper to go to ground before flicking the ball past the man on the line.
The game was end to end: Mickel Pierre shot wide at one end before Tom Carson made it 3-2 with a splendid diagonal run and lofted finish. Two minutes later it was all square again. Ali Bray’s cross evaded everyone, falling invitingly to Michael Farrer at the back post who made no mistake with the finish. There was still time for another twist before half-time. Some quick thinking from Kwan Browne paid dividends as the Player-Coach drove up the line into space from a free hit and slotted inside the near post, beyond the despairing dive of Richard Springham on the line.
The scoring didn’t let up after the break, Pierre’s cross was finished off by Bray to make it 5-3. In the same minute Tom Carson pulled one back with another fine goal, moving from left to right in the D and flicking into the far corner. Amazingly, it was soon 5-5. Chris Newman found John Jackson who returned the compliment with a pass inside to the Reading No20 who had continued his run to finish well.
With the noise building to a crescendo inside the arena both sides pushed hard for the all-important next goal. It was Canterbury who grabbed the initiative, Richford’s run and pass let in Pierre in the 28th minute to make it 6-5. A minute later Mantell made it 6-6 from a penalty corner and once again the sides could not be separated. Bailey did well to get out to block a penalty corner from Browne but then with eight minutes left the Canterbury Player-Coach set up Foster who finished well to give his side the lead once more. They extended the advantage through Ben Allberry with five minutes left but Reading would not lie down. Jackson grabbed his second to make it 8-7 only for Jawanda to make it 9-7 with two minutes left. Springham set up a tense finale with a blistering flick into the top corner but Canterbury held firm to clinch their place in the final against East Grinstead.