Investec Women’s Championship Playoffs Semi-Final: Surbiton 4-1 Reading.

Two goals from Jenna Woolven fired Surbiton into a final showdown with Canterbury tomorrow as Brett Garrard’s side produced a fine display, running out 4-1 winners over Reading in a pulsating encounter at Sonning Lane. The two sides had a win apiece from the league encounters this season so it was set up to be a very close battle. The opening quarter was played at a fast pace with both sides aiming to impose themselves in the early going. Surbiton had the first penalty corners of the match, forced on nine minutes. The ball was not stopped cleanly but still found its way to Beckie Herbert who drew a good block from Sarah Ellis. Ellis had to be alert to see off a fierce strike from Jenna Woolven moments later, too. With 12 minutes gone in the quarter Herbert had a wonderful chance to break the deadlock but her far post deflection fizzed just wide. Reading had chances of their own but some stout defending and a good save from Abi Walker saw off the penalty corners, ensuring the sides went in level at the end of the first quarter.

At the start of the second quarter Reading came closest to the opening goal. Wiz Hunt got a deflection to a left-wing cross but she hit the outside of the post. Surbiton recovered and ramped up the pressure. Emma Thomas was robbed inside her own half by Abi Robinson but Ellis dealt with her deflected shot. Sarah Page also went close, after rounding Sam Quek she was in the clear but Ellis again did well and smothered the shot.

Three minutes after the break Surbiton took the lead. Chloe Strong’s penalty corner was saved by Ellis but Woolven reacted the quickest to fire home the rebound. Reading forced a penalty corner a minute later but Walker saw off Leah Wilkinson’s reverse stick shot with a good save. Page’s darting runs from midfield continued to cause problems for Reading as Surbiton pushed for a second goal. At the other end, Walker was in formidable form, saving brilliantly from Kate Richardson-Walsh’s penalty corner.

The fourth quarter was full of drama as the two sides threw everything at each other in search of the win. Susie Gilbert slalomed her way through the defence and into the D only to be halted by a wonderful tackle from the outstanding Giselle Ansley. On 55 minutes Surbiton doubled their lead with a stunning goal on the break. Beckie Herbert stole the ball from Quek on the half way line and showed a blistering turn of speed to get away from the defence before slotting the ball under the onrushing Ellis to make it 2-0. Four minutes later Reading were back in the contest. Another driving run from Gilbert caused problems in the defence and her cross-shot was deflected in brilliantly by Dirkie Chamberlain.

With Reading pushing forwards in search of an equaliser, Surbiton became more dangerous on the break. With four minutes left in the match, Woolven cut in from the right and found the top corner with a superb reverse stick shot to make it 3-1. Reading took off their goalkeeper as a final throw of the dice but it backfired as they conceded a penalty stroke with one minute left. Georgie Twigg stepped up and beat Ellis who had come back on to face it and Surbiton had the win.

Giselle Ansley, Surbiton’s defender told The Top of the D: “It’s an amazing result for us Words can’t describe how happy we all are. It’s only our second year in the Premier League and our second year in the playoffs so to reach the final shows how talented this group is. Last year has given the girls that extra drive and desire to get to the final and we’re pleased our plans have come off.”

Surbiton will go up against Canterbury tomorrow, whilst Reading have to pick themselves up for the 3rd/4th place match with Clifton.

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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