NOW: Pensions Men’s Championship Playoffs: Beeston 4-2 Reading.

Two goals apiece from Adam Dixon and Sam Ward fired Beeston past Reading in an entertaining semi-final to set up a mouthwatering clash with East Grinstead in tomorrow’s final. An outstanding display from Matt Taylor’s side denied Reading the time and space to impose themselves on the game and but for a slack final five minutes, the score might have looked more impressive for the Bees. 

The first quarter was quite a close contest and chances were scarce for both sides, Reading’s best effort came from Andy Watts’ square pass bound for Dan Shingles which George Pinner did well to get his stick to before the Reading man could apply the finish. Right at the end of the quarter Beeston had a great chance to take the lead. Tim Whiteman’s mazy dribble across the D created space and the England man played in Stephen Lawrence who shot wide.

Beeston upped the pressure in the second quarter, Ward hit a fierce reverse stick shot that Bailey did well to block but on 20 minutes the Reading keeper was powerless to keep out Ward’s deft finish to break the deadlock.

Reading hit back and forced a series of penalty corners. Simon Mantell’s flick was charged down by the runner and then Richard Mantell was well kept out by Pinner diving low to his right. The rebound fell to Nick Catlin but he blazed his effort over the bar.

It was real end-to-end stuff, Bailey kept out Ward from a penalty corner and then Ollie Willars cleared off the line from Catlin after an outrageous through-the-legs-pass from Chris Newman had set him free. Beeston doubled their lead on 28 minutes, Bailey’s clearance fell to Dixon who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner. It got even better for Matt Taylor’s team with just two minutes to the break as Dixon notched his second, finding himself unmarked at the far post to apply a simple finish.

With Reading pushing in the third quarter for a way back into the match gaps appeared at the back. Ward held off Julius Breucker well and shot just wide of the far post and then the Beeston No15 had an even better effort well saved by Bailey. Pinner was also kept busy saving well from Simon Mantell’s shot from the top of the D and then displaying incredible athleticism to see off the same player from a penalty corner. Reading had given it their all but as they went into the fourth quarter they were clearly running out of time.

On 58 minutes, the dye was cast as Ward drove into the D once more and hit a cross shot that was diverted in by the unfortunate John Jackson.
Beeston took their eye off the ball in the closing moments and Reading punished them with a wonderful strike into the roof of the net from Shingles followed closely by a penalty stroke from Jonty Clarke, but Charlie Seccombe’s team ran out of time and Beeston won the match.

Beeston Captain Adam Dixon told the Top of the D afterwards:

“It was definitely not an easy game but we had done a lot of homework for it. We’d already played Reading twice in the league so we knew we had to protect ourselves from their dangerous players and we did that pretty well. We always have good games against Reading but a good start was huge for us and fortunately we came out on top today.”

The win sets up a clash of the titans as Beeston and East Grinstead, the top two in the league season go head to head in the final. Reading will have to bounce back and salvage third place as they go up against Surbiton.

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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