East Grinstead storm to third consecutive national title
East Grinstead see off Beeston in the final to seal their third title in a row at Wembley Arena on Sunday
Billed as ‘the fastest show in town’ the National Indoor Hockey Finals proved to be just that as the showpiece event took over Wembley Arena this weekend.
Favourites East Grinstead stormed to their third consecutive indoor title in the men’s competition in front of a crowd of almost 5,000 in London.
England and East Grinstead midfielder Barry Middleton hailed the creativity of the side as they grabbed the top prize. He said: “We have a strong squad and good bench but most importantly creativity which especially indoors is key”.
The Gladiators faced Beeston in the men’s final with David De Prez’s hat-trick helping them to an 8-5 win over the Nottingham side, who overcame Reading in their semi-final.
East Grinstead took the lead in the first minute through De Prez but Tim Davenport restored parity just 60 seconds later with a powerful drag flick.
It was again De Prez who provided the finish to restore Grinstead’s lead before Beeston hit straight back once again, this time through Adam Dixon in a frantic opening to the match.
England captain Barry Middleton was introduced and he was soon on hand to finish Darren Cheesman’s fine work down the right wing and give Grinstead the lead for the third time.
The West Sussex side kicked on from here and increased their lead as skipper Scott Ashdown found De Prez who showed fantastic composure before slotting past the Pinner.
But Beeston continued their relentless battle as Dixon was eventually freed from a scramble in the area before finishing well. However, Middleton showed his international class to rebuild Grinstead’s two-goal cushion with a neat turn.
Keeper George Pinner kept Beeston in touch after the break with stunning saves from Mats Gramsbusch who was a constant threat with his deft touches. Scot James McBlane then flicked home to put Beeston just a goal behind with 13 minutes to go. It was another Scot who cancelled out McBlane, Niall Stott firing home a thunderous effort.
Pinner again showed his talents to deny Gramsbusch before a clever short corner again kept Beeston in the hunt, with Adam Dixon returning the ball to Wood to sling home.
But East Grinstead had been watching closely and mirrored the move at the opposite end, this time Mark Pearn finishing on the base-line to all but seal the match with only a few minutes remaining.
Team coach Steve Musson opted to substitute keeper Pinner to give them an extra outfield player but the gamble immediately backfired as Stott broke through to claim his second and seal East Grinstead’s title.
The England skipper paid tribute to the 3,000 East Grinstead fans that made the journey to the finals. He said: “A few of the players have been here their whole lives so that support has been fantastic for the side”.
German under-21 starlet Mats Gramsbusch, meanwhile, expressed his delight at the opportunity to play for East Grinstead. He said; “It’s an absolute honour to play with such a talented squad of players – it’s been an amazing day”.
The first semi-final saw East Grinstead book their place in the final with a resounding 8-3 win over Old Loughtonians, De Prez again the hotshot with four goals in the match.
Old Loughtonians captain Alastair Bray was left to ponder the absence of England player Harry Martin from their squad after the defeat. He said: “We missed Harry Martin which was unfortunate but equally they didn’t have Ashley Jackson!”
The second semi-final provided the highest drama as Beeston edged out Reading on penalty strokes. A controversial Reading goal with just seconds to go levelled the match to take the tie to penalties.
Reading subbed keeper Nick Brothers to give them another outfield player but Brothers, who was off the pitch returned the ball to speed up play, and from his intervention Richard Mantell fired into the area for Ian Mackay to deflect in and send Wembley into raptures.
Simon Mantell and James McBlane were successful with their strokes before Richard Mantell and Richard Lane were both denied. Chris Gregg put his home before England international Jonty Clarke struck the bar as Reading crashed out.
Reading coach Ben Barnes bemoaned his side’s rustiness afterwards. He said: “It’s a very quiet dressing room in there; we are absolutely devastated we could get out of second gear. Our preparation was good but we have fluffed our lines a bit today”.
Eyes will now turn to Poznan in Poland for the Indoor Hockey World Cup and this tournament will hold a number of the squad in good stead for the forthcoming event.